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WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

The Challenge of Modern Science 
to Human Action and Belief 

By 

JULIAN HUXLEY 

PROFESSOR OF ZOOLOGY 

IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON 

(KING'S COLLEGE) 




CHATTO AND WINDUS 
LONDON 



First published October 1931 

Third edition January 1932 

First issued in the Phoenix Library 

1933 



Printed in Great Britain : all rights reserved 



PREFACE 

I HAD first of all thought of calling this little 
work c Essays in Scientific Humanism. 5 But 
the word Essays has not a very fashionable 
sound to-day, while the word Humanism has 
of late years been a good deal overdone, 
especially in the United States, where further 
it has acquired a slightly different connota- 
tion from that which it bear's in England. 
And, finally, I discovered that another book 
had recently been published with the phrase 
Scientific Humanism in its title. 

So there was nothing to do but to try and 
think of a new name. But whatever the 
actual title, what this book really contains is 
some Essays in Scientific Humanism. By saying 
that they are Essays I mean that they were 
not all written on the same occasion ; but by 
saying that they are essays in a particular 
subject I mean that, in spite of this dis- 
continuity of composition, they are definitely 
tied together by a common attitude of mind, 

v 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

a common approach. Finally, by using the 
phrase Scientific Humanism, I mean some- 
thing perfectly definite, which I hope will 
emerge clearly from Chapters IV. and V. 
I am sorry that the word humanism has been 
distorted in the United States, on the one 
hand to mean a philosophical doctrine which 
does not seem to me particularly humanistic 
in any recognized sense, and on the other 
to serve as the name for an interesting brand 
of anti-supernatural religion. For in its un- 
distorted natural sense it is very useful ; and 
I see no other phrase but Scientific Humanism 
which could conveniently be used to crystal- 
lize that attitude of mind which it seems to 
me so imperative for the modern world to 
cultivate. 

The first five chapters are an amplification 
of three lectures which I was invited to give 
before the Henry LaBarre Jayne Foundation 
in Philadelphia in January 1931. The plan 
of them remains unaltered, but they have 
been considerably revised and amplified for 
purposes of publication. Chapters IV. and 
V. can also be regarded as an amplification 

vi 



PREFACE 

of a lecture on Scientific Humanism delivered 
in 1930 as President of the Social and Poli- 
tical Education League. The final chapters 
were written as the Conway Memorial 
Lecture which the Ethical Society invited me 
to give in October 1930. The Conway 
Lecture was, as is customary, reprinted in 
booklet form and published by the Ration- 
alist Press Association. Portions of some of 
the other lectures have appeared in the 
Contemporary Review, the Atlantic Monthly, and 
the Tale Review. To the editors and pub- 
lishers concerned, I would like to tender my 
thanks for permission to reprint these articles. 
In conclusion, I would like to thank the 
Ethical Society, the Social and Political 
Education League, and especially the Trus- 
tees of the Henry LaBarre Jayne Foundation 
for their invitations to lecture under their 
auspices ; without these I should not have 
had the stimulus to bring my scattered ideas 
into some sort of order, and this book would 
never have been written. 

KING'S COLLEGE, 

LONDON, June 1931. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



I Biology and the Physical En- 
vironment of Man Page i 

II Biology and the Human Indi- 
vidual 45 

III Man and His Heredity 74 

ry The Conflict between Science 

and Human Nature 1 2 1 

V Scientific Humanism 149 

VI Science, Religion and Human 

Nature 178 

VII Science and the Future of 

Religion 224 



IX 



CHAPTER I 

Biology and the Physical 
Environment of Man 

SCIENCES, like Empires, have their rise 
and their time of flourishing, though not 
their decay. Naturally, the order of their rise 
runs parallel with the complexity of their 
subject-matter. The physical sciences, being 
the simplest and most straightforward, were 
the first to start their triumphant career. 
Some time in the future it will be the turn of 
Psychology and of the elusive social sciences ; 
but at the moment the chief upward move- 
ment is that of biology. 

Looked at with the eye of the historian of 
science, biology is seen to be just reaching the 
position attained by the physico-chemical 
sciences about the middle of last century. 
The phase in which that branch of science 
then found itself was one in which a number 
of different lines of investigation were being 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

brought into intimate and often unexpected 
relations, in which several separate sets of 
concepts were being federated into a single, 
embracing scheme. Heat had come to be 
envisaged, in Tyndall's phrase, as a c mode 
of motion ' ; the kinetic theory of gases tied 
the atoms of the chemist and the physicist's 
laws of temperature and pressure intom single 
whole. The generalizing of electro-magnetic 
theory ; the cohesion given to apparently 
unrelated subjects by the principle of the 
Conservation of Energy ; the unity afforded 
to chemical facts by Mendeleeff's Periodic 
Law these were some of the ideas which 
were unifying physico-chemical science. 

Similarly to-day in biology, the distribu- 
tion of hereditary qualities is seen to be a 
special aspect of cytology, of the behaviour of 
the contents of the cell as seen with the new 
eye provided by the microscope. Mind and 
body are revealed with ever-increasing clear- 
ness as two sides of the single biological 
reality, the organism, and not to be dis- 
entangled from each other. The ductless 
glands which control the chemistry of our 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

bodies influence also the activity of our souls, 
adjust the development of our embryo selves, 
and are one of the important means by which 
the hereditary constitution impresses itself 
upon our natures. Evolution is becoming 
more intelligible as we link up the facts 
derived from the breeding-pen, the fossils 
in the rocks, the behaviour of developing 
embryos and larvae, the laws of growth, 
the scientific study of natural history, the 
manoeuvres of the chromosomes, and the 
distribution of animals and plants over the 
world's surface, not forgetting to call in the 
discipline of mathematics to our aid. Medi- 
cine and physiology are unified by ideas 
drawn from evolution and experimental em- 
bryology. In brief, it is no longer possible 
to be a physiologist or a biochemist, an eco- 
logist or a morphologist, a geneticist or a 
systematist (or at least not possible to do good 
work in any of these sub-sciences) without 
knowing a good deal of other branches of 
biojogy as well. 

Looked at from the standpoint of applied 
science (and science always has its two as- 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

pects, its intellectual aspect as knowledge and 
its practical aspect as control), the present 
position of biology appears equally distinc- 
tive. Every science arrives at a stage during 
which it makes its main broad contributions 
to practical human affairs. Biology is clearly 
on the verge of such a phase, while it is 
already over for physics and chemistry, and 
psychology and sociology cannot hope to 
reach it for perhaps another century. 

I do not in the least mean to imply that 
practical inventions and applications of the 
utmost benefit and importance will not con- 
tinue to be made in the purely physico- 
chemical spherft for millennia to come. Of 
course they will. But the chief kinds of 
things which man has wanted to ask of this 
kind of science have already been granted. 
Man has wished to travel fast : he is already 
approaching the mechanical and physio- 
logical limits of speed. He has wished to 
communicate with other men at a distance, 
to capture and store the treasures of sight and 
hearing ; and there are the telegraph and 
the telephone, the radio and the gramophone, 

4 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

the photograph and the motion picture. He 
has wanted to fly in the air like a bird and 
swim under the water like a fish : he can and 
does. He has wished to be able to synthetize 
useful substances, to apply power with an 
intensity or speed a thousand-fold or million- 
fold of that possible to his own unaided 
forces, to turn night into day at will, to mate 
machines do his mechanical work for him : 
he has already in large and indeed undreamt- 
of measure succeeded. 

But when we come to the biological field, 
the picture is very different. Most of us 
would like to live longer ; to have healthier 
and happier lives ; to be ablfc to control the 
sex of our children when they are conceived, 
and afterwards to mould their bodies, intel- 
lects and temperaments into the best possible 
forms ; to reduce unnecessary pain to a mini- 
mum ; to be able at will to whip up our, 
energies to their fullest pitch without later ill? 
effects. It would be pleasant to be able to 
manufacture new kinds of animals and plants 
at our pleasure, like so many chemical com- 
pounds, to double the yield of an acre of 

B 5 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

wheat or a herd of cattle, to keep the balance 
of nature adjusted in our favour, to banish 
parasites and disease germs from the world. 
And there have been Utopians from Plato's 
time and before it, most of whom have 
dreamt of controlling the stream of the race 
itself not merely in its volume and quan- 
tity, but in its quality, so that humanity 
would blossom into a new character. 

Of these obvious biological aspirations, 
how many have been fulfilled ? Anaesthetics 
remove some of the grosser tortures of pain ; 
the average span of life is a few years longer ; 
some diseases have been stamped out or 
rendered less dangerous enemies ; there has 
been some progress in the moulding of 
our animals and crops and flowers. But 
in general the wishes have remained only 
wishes. 

On the other hand, enough knowledge is 
there to make it clear that these biological 
wishes will soon be ripe for fulfilment. And 
their fulfilment will obviously have more 
intimate and more radical effects than the 
fulfilment of chemical and mechanical wishes, 

6 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

for it will be affecting men directly instead of 
indirectly. 

I do not share the facile optimism which 
sees in every increase of power, every fulfil- 
ment of a wish, a necessary good. The 
knowledge provided by science is emotion- 
ally and morally neutral. And so is the 
power of control which inevitably arises out 
of that knowledge. It is a tool, which like 
other tools can be used for whatever ends its 
possessor sees fit, whether good, bad or in- 
different. The effects of the industrial revo- 
lution and the subsequent inventions in the 
physico-chemical sphere have not been so 
rosy as to warrant the belief still, it would 
appear, widely held that every invention is 
inevitably good, and that progress is auto- 
matic. Progress is only automatic in the 
sense that man, once he has reached a cer- 
tain stage in his development, cannot be kept 
from exerting his faculties and making new 
discoveries ; but it is not automatic in the 
sense of being a process inflicted upon us in- 
evitably from without, independent of our 
efforts and ideals. Thus, while it is futile to 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

try and turn back the tide, it is shallow folly 
to sit back complacently and watch its course. 
The true optimism is a tempered one. 
Change must come ; it can, on balance, be 
good ; it is our business to try to guide it 
and ensure that it shall be not merely change 
but progress. 

An excellent example to our purpose is 
afforded by the biological sources of power. 
With the gradual exhaustion of coal and oil, 
better chemical methods, and the improve- 
ment of tropical agriculture, more and more 
of the combustible sources of power, such as 
the alcohols, will be got from the tropics, 
nfanufactured out of plants. This will mean 
a revolution, a major shift in the economic 
system of the world. The last great economic 
revolution was the industrial revolution ; and 
one of its effects was the growth of an indus- 
trial proletariat, which has not been without 
its disastrous results, disastrous politically and 
perhaps more, in the long run, socially and 
racially. If we are content in this forth- 
coming economic revolution once again to 
adopt a laissez-faire attitude, the world will 

8 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

have on its hands a new proletariat, agricul- 
tural instead of industrial, tropical instead of 
temperate, black and brown instead of white ; 
and the results of its growth will be equally 
disastrous. 

That is a good example, because it illus- 
trates how the various aspects of a problem 
can never be separated from each other. 
Power from tropical vegetation will never 
be a commercial proposition until economic 
pressure joins hands with chemical skill, with 
the biologist's tricks for controlling weeds and 
insect pests, the plant-breeder's manufacture 
of new types of organism, the agriculturist's 
control of the soil ; and once it enters the 
commercial field, it will immediately affect 
the structure of the world's economic frame- 
work, the social life and, in the long run, 
the biological characteristics of the primitive 
peoples of the tropics, and the whole race 
and colour problem. 

In the brief space at my disposal I have 
not the room, even if I had the knowledge, 
to explore these far-reaching inter-relations 
of biological progress with all other huma^i 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

activities. I must content myself with re- 
minding my readers that they are always 
there, urging them to let their social and 
human imagination play round the conse- 
quences of scientific fact. 

Let us take a couple of examples at ran- 
dom to point the moral, and then continue 
with the plain tale of biology. It is clearly 
desirable for man to be more healthy ; and 
with regard to all the numerous brood of 
germ-caused diseases, the most obvious way 
of attempting to provide more health is by 
getting rid of the germ. I say the most 
obvious way ; it may not prove to be the 
most practicable way. The League of Na- 
tions Commission on Malaria in Europe laid 
down as its first principle that the radical 
elimination of the malaria- transmitting mos- 
quito was not practical politics ; and there 
can be no reasonable being who can imagine 
it possible to get rid of tuberculosis germs out 
of the world within the next thousand years. 
But, in some cases, we could eliminate the 
germ, either locally, in the more civilized 
countries, or in some cases, even universally. 

10 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

Yellow fever is fighting a losing battle with 
Mr Rockefeller ; it should, in the long run, 
be possible to wipe out the trypanosomes of 
sleeping sickness ; scarlet fever and diph- 
theria, typhoid and enteric can be killed 
out or reduced to negligible proportions in 
really civilized countries. 

Well and good : but are all the results 
necessarily good ? In the first place, with 
the lifting of the rigorous hand of selection, 
the natural immunity to these diseases 
would decrease with their decrease. Before 
measles were known in the South Seas, 
there was no biological necessity for the 
South Sea Islanders to possess any immunity 
to the disease, and there were among them 
all grades of inborn and inheritable resist- 
ance, from zero to moderately high. When 
it was introduced, it killed like the Black 
Death ; and by the elimination of those with 
least natural resistance, the average resist- 
ance of the race has been considerably raised. 
And the converse will hold : with the banish- 
ing of a disease, the biological need for re- 
sistance will disappear, the less resistant will 

ii 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

survive just as well as the more resistant, and 
the average resistance of the population will 
gradually go down. 

What will then happen if the disease is re- 
introduced after several centuries of banish- 
ment ? It might be reintroduced during a 
war by an unscrupulous enemy ; it might get 
in accidentally ; the nation might decline 
and pay less attention to sanitation, so that 
the barriers to the entry of the disease-germs 
were lowered. And in any such event, the 
disease would race through the country like 
flame through dry grass, killing by the tens 
of thousands. 

What we have been saying applies to 
specific resistance-immunity to one particular 
disease-germ, not necessarily correlated with 
immunity to any other disease, nor with 
general vigour. But there is also general, 
non-specific resistance, something to do with 
general health and vigour, the broad scale 
against which the narrow scales of specific 
resistances are set up. Ceteris paribus, the 
strong and generally healthy child or man 
will survive, the weakling will succumb. And 

12 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

if many diseases were banished from a 
country, and matters otherwise left to them- 
selves, it is almost certain that there would be 
a lowering of the general vitality, stamina, 
and resistance of the population through the 
disproportionate survival of the weaker ves- 
sels whom the diseases would have eliminated 
more ruthlessly than they did the general pop- 
ulation ; the population would be healthier 
as regards these particular diseases, but as a 
race it would have put its foot on the down- 
ward slope of degeneration. 

Or take another example, more spectac- 
ular, if more remote. The discovery that 
sex is determined at conception by means 
of the existence of two kinds of male cells, 
male-determining and female-determining, of 
which the female-determiners are a little the 
bigger owing to their possession of an extra 
chromosome, opens the door to a possible 
control of sex. This could only be done 
through a separation of the two kinds of male 
cells, and the subsequent injection of one or 
the other ; thus it is not likely to become 
widespread, even if it should become practic- 

13 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

able, in our type of society. But five hundred 
years hence such interferences with nature 
may be regarded in the same matter-of-fact 
way as we regard interferences with nature 
which we now practise, like drinking the milk 
of other species of animal, using telephones 
and aeroplanes, or wearing clothes. And 
then the sociological implications will begin. 
Should it be in the power of any parent to 
regulate the sex of his offspring at will ? If 
so, would not there be a great over-produc- 
tion of males ? If, on the other hand, it were 
left to the State, would there not again be a 
great over-production of males, for purely 
militaristic reasons ? And, in such case, would 
this not lead to what we might call a boot- 
legging production of girl children, privately 
and illicitly? For we can be sure that if 
there is a shortage of any essential com- 
modity, human or otherwise, the production 
of that commodity will become immensely 
profitable. 

So we might go on ; but I have said 
enough to show how important it is not to 
work in watertight compartments, but to try 

14 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

to anticipate the consequences of any change, 
the reverberations of science upon economics, 
recreation or social life. 

So much by way of introduction. In what 
follows, the scheme I have adopted to bring 
some order into my facts is itself a biological 
one. I have tried to describe some of the 
influences which biology is exerting or might 
exert, first upon the tangible environment in 
which man lives ; next upon men and 
women as individuals ; then upon man as a 
continuing race ; and last upon that in- 
tangible environment which man alone of all 
organisms possesses, the tradition of thought 
and customs and accumulated ideas to which, 
just as inevitably and rigorously as to the 
physical environment, his growing nature 
must adapt itself. 

The most obvious way in which biological 
science can have its practical say is in its effect 
upon the environment of man. Not only can 
it influence this or that particular kind of 
animal or plant, encouraging one, destroying 
another, re-modelling a third, but it must be 
called in to adjust the balance of nature. 

15 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

The balance of nature is a very elaborate 
and very delicate system of checks and 
counterchecks. It is continually being altered 
as climates change, as new organisms evolve, 
as animals or plants permeate to new areas. 
But the alterations have in the past, for the 
most part, been slow, whereas with the arrival 
of man, and especially of civilized man, their 
speed has been multiplied many fold : from 
the evolutionary time-scale, where change is 
measured by periods of ten or a hundred 
thousand years, they have been transferred 
to the human time-scale in which centuries 
and even decades count. 

Everywhere man is altering the balance 
of nature. He is facilitating the spread of 
plants and animals into new regions, some- 
times deliberately, sometimes unconsciously. 
He is covering huge areas with new kinds of 
plants, or with houses, factories, slag-heaps 
and other products of his civilization. He 
exterminates some species on a large scale, 
but favours the multiplication of others. 
In brief, he has done more in five thou- 
sand years to alter the biological aspect 
16 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

of the planet than has nature in five 
million. 

Many of these changes which he has 
brought about have had unforeseen conse- 
quences. Who would have thought that the 
throwing away of a piece of Canadian water- 
weed would have caused half the waterways 
of Britain to be blocked for a decade? or that 
the provision of pot cacti for lonely settlers' 
wives would have led to Eastern Australia 
being overrun with forests of Prickly Pear ? 
Who would have prophesied that the cutting 
down of forests on the Adriatic coasts, or 
in parts of Central Africa, could have re- 
duced the land to a semi-desert, with the very 
soil washed away from the bare rock ? Who 
would have thought that improved communi- 
cations would have changed history by the 
spreading of disease sleeping sickness into 
East Africa, measles into Oceania, very 
possibly malaria into ancient Greece ? 

These are spectacular examples ; but 
examples on a smaller scale are everywhere 
to be found. We make a nature sanctuary 
for rare birds, prescribing absolute security 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

for all species ; and we may find that some 
common and hardy kind of bird multiplies 
beyond measure and ousts the rare kinds in 
which we were particularly interested. We 
see, owing to some little change brought 
about by civilization, the starling spread 
over the English countryside in hordes. We 
improve the yielding capacities of our cattle ; 
and find that now they exhaust the pastures 
which sufficed for less exigent stock. We 
gaily set about killing the carnivores that 
molest our domestic animals, the hawks that 
eat our fowls and game-birds ; and find that 
in so doing we are also removing the brake 
that restrains the multiplication of mice and 
other little rodents that gnaw away the 
farmers' profits. 

In brief, our human activities are every- 
where altering nature and its balance, 
whether we realize it or no, and whether we 
want to or no. If we do not wish the altera- 
tions to be chaotic, disorderly and often 
harmful, we must do our best to control 
them, and constitute new balances to suit 
our purposes. 

18 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

The first and most obvious department of 
control is the conservation of nature and its 
resources. It is extremely easy to kill the 
goose that lays the golden eggs ; and when 
the goose is a wild species, once killed it is 
gone for ever. The Maoris killed the Moas, 
of which a number of different kinds used to 
inhabit New Zealand, for their meat. Sailors 
exterminated the Great Auk. The final ex- 
tinction of the Mammoths was in all proba- 
bility caused by the attacks of our Stone Age 
ancestors. The white man reduced the Bison 
from an abundance comparable with the 
abundance of zebra or gnu in Africa until to- 
day its precarious remnant has to be looked 
after like a museum specimen. The Fur Seals 
of the Pacific were brought by indiscriminate 
slaughter to the verge of disappearance, and 
were only saved by international agreement. 
The huge hordes of whales of the northern 
seas were harried into insignificance ; and 
now there is danger that their southern rela- 
tives will follow suit. Of the elephants of 
Africa, according to Major Kingston, ten per 
cent, are killed every year. The marvellous 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

guano deposits of the west coast of South 
America were being exhausted, and have 
only been saved by the careful regulations at 
last imposed by the Peruvian Government. 

If we want wild creatures to go on pro- 
viding us with oil, furs, fertilizers, ivory, meat 
or sport, we must regulate their affairs as we 
would regulate a business. We must know 
where and when they breed, how many young 
they have, how long they take to grow up, 
what their natural mortality is, and must 
on the basis of this knowledge adjust our ex- 
ploitation so that it only skims off the natural 
increase. This has been done for some 
animals ; it can be done for those others that 
are now in danger'of our reckless methods. 

But as well as the preservation of particular 
species, there is the preservation of nature as 
a whole to think about. If we do not take 
care, we shall find civilization infiltrating all 
but the most inhospitable parts of our planet 
and leaving no regions in their pristine and 
exhilarating state. It is so easy to kill out 
game, leaving a country still untamed but 
sadly barren ; to dot the wilderness with 

20 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

straggling outliers of industrialism, leaving 
it neither wild nor yet civilized ; to cut down 
forests without making provision for replace- 
ment, leaving scrub forests of second growth, 
as over so much of the United States, or even 
only bare hillsides ; in brief, to mix nature 
and civilization so that the fine essence of 
the one is destroyed, of the other not fully 
realized, and the net result an unsatisfying 
compromise. 

The remedy is conscious planning. No 
one supposes that the game animals of Africa 
can everywhere remain as they are, that 
forests and jungles will not often need to be, 
cut down, or replanted artificially and scien- ; 
tifically, that many swamps should not be 
drained, many stretches of sea-coast turned 
into holiday towns. But we can delimit 
different areas for different purposes. Man 
does not live by bread alone. There is his) 
need for solitude to consider, and his scien-f 
tific interests ; there is the recreation and 
refreshment afforded to him by nature, and 
the unique excitement and interest of seeing 
wild creatures. 

C 21 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

These needs can all be met if we only take 
them in time. There are different balances 
of nature and civilization, each of them ad- 
mirable in its way, whose preservation can be 
deliberately planned. We can plan the city 
so that it provides beauty, ease of movement, 
varied activities, and a sense of civic pride. 
We can plan the small town so that it pro- 
vides a centre of life for its area, yet without 
spoiling the zone cf country round it. The 
real countryside is profoundly artificial, with 
nature tamed by man ; but it represents a 
particular balance, which has its own unique 
possibilities of beauty and interest, and it can 
be guarded from unwarranted intrusions, its 
peculiar attractions can be preserved, its 
development can be guided. The half-wild 
country of moor, mountain, marsh, forest or 
sea-shore can be either entirely reclaimed, or 
kept entirely unspoilt. 

When we come to setting aside definite 
tracts of land for other than material needs, 
can plan them with precise aims in view, 
areas should be set apart as specimens 
of nature, just as we preserve specimens of 

22 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL -ENVIRONMENT 

interesting animals and plants in our mu- 
seums. These are Nature Sanctuaries, to 
which access should only be sparingly ac- 
corded, and then mainly for purposes of 
scientific study. The prime object here is to 
keep the original balance as unaltered as pos- 
sible. Then there are National Parks, where 
nature is conserved not in the interests of the 
enquiring scientific spirit of man, but in the 
interests of his love of natural beauty and 
need of wildness and solitude. The essentials 
of nature must here be preserved, but a com- 
promise will often have to be struck with the 
need for making nature accessible. All 
grades of naturalness can be preserved in 
National Parks, from the unspoilt wildness of 
the Grisons or the Yosemite to the partially- 
tamed beauties of Sussex downland or the 
New Forest. And, finally, we can provide 
scheduled areas ; for these, while recog- 
nizing that their prime purpose is utilitarian, 
we can introduce regulations which will 
ensure that their wild life and their other 
attractions are interfered with as little as may 
be, and that their possibilities of providing 

23 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

recreation and beauty are made plentifully 
available. '^ 

In addition to these main categories, we 
may establish reserves for special purposes 
for bird life, for the preservation of rare or 
beautiful plants, or even for strange human 
beings like the pigmies. But in every case we 
must have in mind just what we want to do, 
and carry out our plans accordingly. In 
almost every case some degree of control will 
be needed to preserve this or that balance, 
for the original balance of nature is gone, de- 
stroyed by the mere presence of man on 
earth ; and even in the remotest regions it 
will rarely be enough to leave everything to 
nature, for nature almost everywhere has 
already been in some measure modified by 
man, and is therefore already to that extent 
artificial. I will give but one illustration. 
The traveller through East Africa naturally 
thinks that its great stretches of thorn-scrub 
country are a part of primeval nature. But 
in great part they exist by virtue of human 
interference ; if it were not for the black 
man's cattle, and his habit of burning the 

24 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

bush, they would be woodland, of quite a 
different character. Those who want other 
examples will find them in abundance in 
Ritchie's interesting book, The Influence of 
Man on Animal Life in Scotland. Even to pre- 
serve nature, we need to have a knowledge 
of the machinery by which the balance of 
nature is adjusted ; and for that we need 
a well-developed science of ecology, that 
branch of biology which studies the relations 
of wild organisms to each other and to 
their environment. 

The other province of ecological biology 
is its aid, not in preserving nature as near 
her original self as possible, but in control- 
ling and remoulding her to suit the economic 
purposes of man. 

Agriculture is the chief of man's efforts 
at the biological remodelling of nature. If 
we reflect that agriculture is less than a 
paltry ten thousand years old out of the three 
hundred million years that green plants have 
been on earth, and that apart from forest 
fires and perhaps a little occasional clearing, 
there had before that been no human inter- 

25 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

ference with the natural mantle of vegetation, 
we begin to grasp something of the revolution 
wrought by this biological discovery. 

But agriculture is, if you like, unnatural ; 
it concentrates innumerable individuals of a 
single species and always, of course, a par- 
ticularly nutritious one in serried ranks, 
while nature's method is to divide up the 
space among numerous competing or com- 
plementary kinds. Thus it constitutes not 
merely an opportunity but a veritable invita- 
tion to vegetable-feeding animals, of which 
the most numerous and most difficult to con- 
trol are the small, insinuating and rapidly- 
multiplying insects. And the better and 
more intensive the agriculture, the richer 
becomes the banquet, the more obvious the 
invitation. Shifting cultivation, with poorly- 
developed crop-plants and plenty of weeds, 
is one thing ; but mile upon square mile of 
tender, well-weeded wheat or tea or cotton 
offers the optimum possibilities for the rapid 
multiplication and spread of any species of 
insect which can take advantage of man's 
good nature towards his kind. 

26 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

Finally, man's insatiable desire for rapid 
and easy transit has capped the trouble. 
Evil communications, we all know, corrupt 
good manners : it is not generally realized 
how much good communications have done 
to corrupt the balance of nature. 

By accident or intention, animal and plant 
species find their way along the trade routes 
to new countries. They are in a new en- 
vironment, among a new set of competing 
creatures to whose particular equilibrium of 
struggle they are not adapted. In such cir- 
cumstances, the majority fail to gain a foot- 
hold at all ; some survive on sufferance ; but 
a few find in the new circumstances a release 
instead of a hindrance, and multiply beyond 
measure. The release may be a release from 
competitors, as when the mongoose was in- 
troduced into one of the West Indian islands, 
or, more frequently, a release from enemies, 
whether large and predatory or small and 
parasitic. 

Then it is up to the biologist to see what 
his knowledge can do. Can he, by studying 
the pest in its original home, discover what 

27 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

are tne other species that normally act as 
checks on its over-multiplication, make sure 
that, if he imports them to the new country, 
they will not there change their habits and 
turn into pests themselves, then successfully 
transport them, and breed them and let 
them loose in sufficient numbers to bring the 
enemy of the crops down to insignificance ? 
Sometimes he can. Let me give two 
examples. On Fiji, coconuts have for some 
time been one of the staple products. Some 
few decades ago, the plantations on one of 
the main islands were reduced to nutless, 
leafless poles. That was bad enough ; but 
then, after the war, the plague began to 
appear on the other and larger main island. 
The men are still alive and active who 
brought prosperity back to Fiji. It had 
already been discovered that the cause of 
the trouble was a little moth very beautiful, 
with violet wings whose grubs devoured the 
leaves of the palm-trees ; and it prospered so 
alarmingly because in Fiji it had no parasite 
enemies. Three biologists were appointed to 
find a parasite. They searched the remote 

28 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

corners of the Pacific. At last they found, in 
the Malay States, not the same moth, but a 
closely-related species, which was provided 
with its natural complement of parasites, 
notably a kind of fly. It was not easy to 
bring the parasites the long distance to Fiji, 
for they do not hibernate, and so must be 
fed and tended all the time. They had to 
be provided with living moth-caterpillars, 
and these in return had to be provided with 
newly-sprouted coconuts, grown in specially- 
built cages. As there was no direct com- 
munication from this part of the Malay 
States to Fiji, a steamer had to be chartered 
for the voyage. 

By these means, 300 precious parasitic flies 
were in 1925 safely landed in Fiji. These 
were bred on the caterpillars of the Fiji coco- 
nut moth, and within twelve months had 
increased to 32,000. Then the liberation of 
the parasites began, and they went to their 
work with such gusto that by 1928 at least 
four-fifths of the coconut-moth caterpillars 
of Fiji were parasitized, and therefore came 
to nothing. By 1929 the coconut moth, 

29 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

which threatened to ruin the archipelago, 
had become reduced to the status of a minor 
nuisance. Man had readjusted the environ- 
ment, whose balance he had in the first 
instance upset. 

Then there is the Prickly Pear in Eastern 
Australia. I remember once hearing a lec- 
ture by Dr Tillyard, now in charge of pest 
control and related problems in Australia. 
After he had been talking of the Prickly Pear 
for a bit, he drew out his watch. c It is seven 
minutes/ he said, c since I began discussing 
this subject ; during that time another seven 
acres of Australian land have been covered 
with this impenetrable and useless scrub. 5 
That, however, was five or six years ago. In 
the meanwhile, the research scheme begun 
by the Australian Commonwealth in 1920 
has matured. At their research station estab- 
lished on the American continent original 
home of the prickly pear and other cacti 
every possible enemy of the cactus was tried 
out ; and at last a mixed team was sent to 
Australia a caterpillar to tunnel through 
the c leaves ' (which are really the prickly 

30 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

pear's stems), a plant bug and a cochineal 
insect to suck its juices, and a mite to scarify 
its surface. These were the Four Arthropods 
of the prickly pear's Apocalypse ; instead of 
increasing any longer in Australia, it is now 
halted, and in many places the thickets are 
melting away under the combined attack. 

One could multiply instances. How the 
sugar-cane of Hawaii was saved from its 
weevil destroyers ; how the destruction of 
North American forests by Gipsy-moths was 
held in check ; how an attack is being 
launched upon the mealy-bugs that are such 
a pest to Kenya coffee, by massed battalions 
of lady-birds, bred up on a generous ration 
consisting of chopped eggs, cream, marmite, 
honey, and radio-malt. To cope with all the 
demands for anti-pest organisms, a veritable 
industry has sprung up. There exists near 
Slough a Government establishment, usually 
nicknamed the Parasite Zoo, whose prime 
function is to breed up the supply of pest- 
parasites demanded by the British Empire. 

All the spectacular successes have been 
achieved when a pest has invaded new 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

territory ahead of its enemies. Even in such 
cases, however, success has not always been 
attained. Sometimes this may be due to the 
weakness of human nature : there have been 
Boards of Pest Control which were not too 
anxious to find their occupation gone with the 
going of their particular pest. But leaving 
such non-biological or hyper-biological con- 
siderations on one side, there have been many 
pests which have so far baffled research. One 
need only think of the invading thickets of 
blackberries in New Zealand ; of the disease 
that has recently been blighting the elms in 
its march across Western Europe ; of the 
spread of the European corn-borer over the 
United States to the great detriment of the 
maize crop ; of the permanent pest of rabbits 
in Australia. 

Such being the difficulties of the work when 
reduced to its simplest terms, we should ex- 
pect to find them far more severe when the 
pest is an old-established inhabitant of the 
country. For then it will already possess its 
full complement of enemies and parasites, 
and exist in a natural equilibrium with them, 

32 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

so that we can have little hope of causing a 
speedy reduction by the mere liberation of a 
parasite. And it has become a pest through 
man providing, in his own person or in that 
of his domestic animals or plants, a new and 
susceptible source of food. Problems of this 
type are set to us by malaria, spread by in- 
digenous mosquitoes ; human sleeping sick- 
ness and nagana disease of cattle, transmitted 
by tsetse-flies ; plague, dependent for its 
spread upon the ubiquitous rat. 

In British Africa alone, areas aggregat- 
ing many times the size of Great Britain are 
infested by tsetse, and so made uninhabit- 
able by any native population save hunting 
nomads, since all settled native culture in- 
volves the keeping of cattle. In some places, 
the issue is whether man or the fly shall 
dominate the country ; at the present 
moment the fly's dominion in Tanganyika is 
twice the size of man's. The disease-agents 
which it transmits, the blood-parasites called 
trypanosomes, live normally in the blood of 
game and other wild animals, and do them 
no harm, since host and parasite have become 

33 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

mutually adapted through millennia of selec- 
tive adjustment ; but man and his beasts are 
new hosts, and are without any such adaptive 
resistance. In such a case, the best remedy 
seems to be to alter the whole environment in 
such a way that the tsetse can no longer 
happily live in it. Most tsetse-flies live in 
bush country. They cannot exist either in 
quite open country, or in cultivated land, or 
in dense woodland or forest. So that either 
wholesale clearing or afforestation may get 
rid of them. Or it may be possible that a 
change of conditions will favour one of the 
local parasites and so bring about a new 
balance between the fly and its enemies. 
And by studying the precise habits of the 
creature, efficient methods of trapping may 
be devised. 

That pests of this nature can cease to be 
serious is shown by the history of malaria and 
of plague. In various parts of Europe and 
America, these diseases, once serious, have 
wholly or virtually died out. And this has 
happened through a change in human en- 
vironment and human habits. Take plague. 

34 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

Modern man builds better houses, clears 
away more garbage, segregates cases of 
infectious diseases, is less tolerant of dirt and 
parasites, and in fine lives in such a way that 
his life is not in such close contact with that 
of rats. The result has been that rats have 
fewer chances of transmitting plague to man, 
and that the disease, if once transmitted, has 
less chance of spreading. With regard to 
malaria, although it is essential for quick 
results to utilize all the implications of Ross' 
and Grassi's great discovery that the disease 
is transmitted by mosquitoes, yet as a matter 
of history agricultural drainage, cleanliness 
and better general resistance, have, in many 
places, done as much or more than deliberate 
anti-mosquito campaigns to reduce or banish 
the disease. 

So, too, typhus disappears with the spread 
of cleanliness, typhoid with the arrival of a 
good water supply ; and tuberculosis is more 
likely to be reduced by changed habits as 
regards fresh air, nourishing diet, and the 
public attitude to clean milk, than by any 
direct attack upon the tubercle bacillus. 

35 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

All the methods of which I have spoken 
have this in common that they attempt to 
break the power of a pest by altering the rest 
of the environment, by directly or indirectly 
interfering with the balances of existing 
nature, so that the conditions shall no 
longer be so favourable for the obnoxious 
species. 

But we could attack the problem from 
another angle. We could alter the very 
nature of Nature, changing the balance, not 
by changing the conditions, but by chang- 
ing the inherent qualities of the organisms 
involved. For instance, instead of trying 
to attack a pest by means of introducing 
enemies, or altering the environment in 
which it has to carry on its operations, we can 
often deliberately breed stocks which shall be 
resistant to the attacks of the pest. Thus we 
can now produce relatively rust-proof wheat ; 
and the Dutch have given us spectacular 
examples of what can be accomplished by 
the thoroughgoing application of Mendelian 
methods, by crossing a high-yielding but 
disease-susceptible sugar-cane with a related 

36 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

wild species which is disease-resistant, and, 
in spite of the fact that the wild parent 
contains no trace of sugar, extracting from 
the cross after a few generations a disease- 
resistant plant with an exceptionally high 
yield of sugar. 

Ecology here joins hands with genetics. 
And with genetics we may conclude our 
chapter, for it offers the prospect of the most 
radical transformations of our environment. 
Cows or sheep, rubber-plants or beets, repre- 
sent from one aspect just so many living 
machines, designed to transform raw ma- 
terial into finished products available for 
man's use. And their machinery can be 
improved. Modern wheats yield several 
times as much per acre as the unimproved 
varieties grown by early and primitive agri- 
culturists ; and of late years, through the 
deliberate breeding of new types, the range 
of successful wheat cultivation has been 
extended nearly a hundred miles nearer the 
pole, and far into areas previously considered 
semi-desert. 

Modern cows grow about twice as fast 

D 37 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

as the cattle kept by primitive tribes ; and 
when they are grown, produce two or three 
times as much milk in a year. This has 
thrown a new strain on the pastures upon 
which they feed, for the cow eventually 
draws its nourishment out of the soil, and if 
the animal machine for utilizing grass is im- 
proved, the plant machine which is respon- 
sible for the first stage of the process, of work- 
ing up raw materials out of earth and air, 
must be improved correspondingly. Accord- 
ingly research is actively in progress not only 
to discover the best fertilizers for grass, but to 
manufacture new breeds of grass which shall 
be as much more efficient than ordinary grass 
as a modern dairy beast is than the aboriginal 
cow. 

Of course, if we choose to give rein to our 
speculative fancy, there is hardly a limit to 
the goals to be set to deliberate breeding. 
Evolution is one long sermon on the text of 
the infinite plasticity of living matter. Tem- 
perament as well as anatomy, habits as well 
as structure, can be moulded by selection. 
We can breed out high-thyroid and low- 

38 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

thyroid strains of doves, or tame and savage 
strains of rats, which depend on definite 
Mendelian differences as much as do blue- 
eyed or brown-eyed strains of human beings, 
or the tall and dwarf pea-plants of Mendel 
himself. If we wished, we could undoubtedly 
inflict upon other felines what we have 
already inflicted upon a number of breeds of 
domestic cat namely, placid amiability in 
place of spitfire ferocity ; and we could 
obtain tigers which, in actual fact, and not 
only in Mr Belloc's verse, were c kittenish 
and mild. 3 But such speculations belong to 
the remoter future ; and I leave my readers 
to pursue them in the pages of Mr Wells' 
Men Like Gods or Mr Stapledon's First and 
Last Men. They serve to remind us, how- 
ever, in moments of discouragement in our 
more immediate and pedestrian tasks, of the 
possibilities that do exist, and of the folly 
of impatience in a world which achieves 
its real results not in tens but in thousands 
of years. 

If I have chosen to concentrate largely 
upon the subject of pests, it is because it 

39 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

brings out so clearly the intricate inter- 
relationships of what we usually call the 
balance of nature, and the possibility of 
striking achievements, provided we build up 
the ecological science which alone can give 
us the necessary knowledge. There are 
plenty of other topics which coldd as fruit- 
fully have been explored. Selective breeding 
I have just touched upon. I fiave hardly 
mentioned the sea, although it covers three- 
fifths of the earth's surface, and is inhabited 
in three dimensions instead of only two like 
the land. With the invention by Professor 
Hardy, of Hull, of the continuous plankton- 
recorder, we now can get a quantitative 
knowledge of the floating microscopic plants 
and animals that are at the basis of all the 
food-economics of the sea ; with its aid we 
could and should prepare a map of the 
sea, analogous to a vegetation map of the 
earth, showing the zoning of the raw 
materials available for fish and whales, 
and of other larger and more humanly 
interesting life. 

Then many microscopic forms of life them- 

40 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

selves produce valuable materials : we could 
begin the deliberate cultivation of useful 
species of diatoms or filamentous algae or 
protophyta, with a view eventually to grow- 
ing them on a large scale in enclosed bays 
or arms of the sea. 

Again, now that Baly has been able to 
produce sugar (albeit only a trace) out of 
nothing but water, salts, air and light, we 
can look forward to steady progress in the 
direct synthesis of food-stuffs from inorganic 
matter. But progress is bound to be slow, 
and meanwhile we can set our existing 
methods in order by not wasting any of the 
essential raw materials used in nature's way 
of food manufacture by the agency of green 
plants. At the moment, the world is squan- 
dering its capital of available phosphorus 
and nitrogen certainly as fast as Great 
Britain is spending her accumulated financial 
capital. The chief way in which we waste it 
is by discharging our sewage into the sea, 
whence but little material ever returns to 
land. Nitrogen can be replaced out of the 
unlimited resources in the atmosphere, now 

41 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

that we have found how to tap those re- 
sources and turn them into available form. 
But there appears to be no reserve source of 
phosphorus : unless we want our descendants 
to starve, we must plan the conservation of 
this essential element. 

These few examples must suffice to show 
the kind of control which man is just realizing 
he could exert over his environment. But 
they are enough to give us a new picture the 
picture of a world controlled by man. It 
will never be fully controlled, for man cannot 
prevent earthquakes or eruptions, control the 
seasons or the length of day, change the 
climate of the Poles, stop hurricanes or ocean 
currents, or tap the resources of the ocean 
floor ; but just as the control exercised by 
man to-day is far greater than that exerted 
by any other animal species, so the future 
control of man will enormously exceed his 
present powers ; and even where he does not 
control, he will often, within limits, be regu- 
lating or guiding the course of nature ; and 
where he does not guide, he will at least be 
exploiting in a conscious and deliberate way. 

42 



BIOLOGY AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT 

The world will be parcelled out into what is 
needed for crops, what for forests, what for 
gardens and parks and games, what for the 
preservation of wild nature ; what grows on 
any part of the land's surface will grow there 
because of the conscious decision of man ; 
and many kinds of animals and plants will 
owe not merely the fact that they are 
allowed to grow and exist, but their charac- 
teristics and their very nature, to human 
control. 

The sea will be mapped in new ways, 
exploited scientifically without waste, and 
much of it, almost certainly, will be farmed 
or cultivated as we cultivate the land, to give 
a larger yield. And disease-germs, pests, 
noxious weeds and vermin, will be in large 
measure abolished or, at least, under the 

thumb of a scientific humanity. 
****** 

But an organism is an interaction between 
the nature of its own protoplasm and the 
nature of its environment ; and to concen- 
trate too exclusively upon the environment is 
to leave the greater half undone. In what 

43 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

follows, I must try to give some idea of the 
effect which biology may have upon human 
protoplasm, whether embodied in separate 
developing individuals or flowing onwards 
in the single evolutionary stream of the 
race. 



44 



CHAPTER II 

Biology and the Human 
Individual 

THE human individual is in certain im- 
portant respects the most complicated bit 
of machinery in existence. And its machinery 
is, of course, biological. It is thus clearly 
impossible to survey the relations between 
biological science and the human organism 
in a single chapter ; for to do this properly 
would require a treatise on physiology, a 
treatise on psychology, a treatise on embry- 
ology, and a treatise on medicine. All I can 
hope to do is, taking a great deal of know- 
ledge for granted, to show some of the ways 
in which the advance of biological know- 
ledge may be expected to react upon our 
attitude to our control of our individual 
human selves. 

I do not want my readers to become angry 
with me at the outset. So, as I know what 

45 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

clouds of philosophic wrath can rise at the 
suggestion that man is a machine, I suppose 
I must devote a few words to justifying that 
harmless but necessary phrase. 

Man is, from the external viewpoint of 
physical science, a bit of machinery. From 
another aspect, he is a spiritual being, whose 
emotional and intellectual activities, since 
they occur in the realm of consciousness and 
are non-spatial and non-material, are in a 
different order of existence. By some means, 
these two aspects are interdependent : it is 
the task of the future to determine precisely 
how. But this is irrelevant to our present 
point, which is, that in so far as man is made 
of matter an indisputable if often incon- 
venient fact he obeys the same laws as 
other material aggregations. The conserva- 
tion of matter, the conservation of energy, the 
laws of chemical combination, the orderly 
sequence of events which we sum up as the 
principle of cause and effect the progress 
of biology during the last hundred years has 
shown that these generalizations apply to an 
increasing number of aspects of living matter 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

as well as to matter which is not living, has 
enormously narrowed the field of life-pro- 
cesses in which they might possibly not hold, 
and has thrown the burden of proof that 
they may perhaps not be universally valid 
upon those who oppose this view. It is 
simply this applicability of the same laws to 
the same aspects, both of living and non- 
living matter, which I have in mind when I 
speak of an organism, human or otherwise, 
as a machine ; and it is at least fair to say 
that it is not only the general working 
hypothesis of most biologists, but a working 
hypothesis which continues to justify itself 
by ever new fruits. 

Most people at the word machine have a 
vision of something made of steel and util- 
izing the principles of mechanics to do its 
work. But you may have chemical machines 
or electrical machines. An electric cell is just 
as much a bit of machinery as a steam- 
hammer, a sulphuric acid plant just as much 
as a printing press. And the organism, 
though it contains machines which are purely 
mechanical in the classical sense, like the 

47 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

levers provided by the skeleton, is in the 
main a piece of chemical machinery, and, 
further, one whose chemistry is of an appall- 
ing order of complexity compared with most 
of the chemistry studied in ordinary chemical 
laboratories. 

The working hypothesis of most biologists, 
then, is simply that man, like other organ- 
isms, has an aspect in which he can be 
studied and controlled as a piece of machinery 
a very complicated piece of machinery, 
largely chemical, with great pow r ers of self- 
regulation (they too dependent upon their 
own particular mechanisms) but none the 
less a piece of machinery. If they did not 
hold this working hypothesis, they would 
not be able to continue hoping for successful 

results from their work. 
****** 

During the last two centuries, and notably 
during the last seventy or eighty years, there 
has been a great deal of progress in under- 
standing and controlling human machinery. 
But it has been limited in two main respects. 
It has been confined to the period after 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

birth, when the plasticity of the organism 
has been largely lost, and only minor changes 
can be induced ; and it has concerned itself, 
not unnaturally, much more with disease 
than with health, much more with remedy- 
ing marked defects or departures from the 
normal, than in raising the normal to its 
optimum. 

Let us consider these two aspects of the 
question : and first, the possibility of attack- 
ing and bringing under control that earlier 
and more astounding part of our life-history 
in which a human body is produced out of a 
tiny speck of protoplasm. 

The human being, like other organisms, 
must develop : like other higher animals, he 
must develop from a fertilized egg a mere 
single cell, microscopic in size and simple in 
structure. In his development, again like 
other animals, he passes through two main 
phases. There is an early phase, during 
which, without much growth, the main plan 
of the future human being is laid down, and 
a later phase, during which great growth 
occurs and details are filled in. During the 

49 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

first phase, development takes him from the 
state of a mere egg to that of a vertebrate, 
from a single spherical cell to an organism 
with head, brain, heart, digestive tube, limbs, 
skeleton, muscles, kidneys, and other neces- 
sary organs. During the second, the organs 
begin to work in their characteristic way, 
the mere vertebrate remoulds itself to fit itself 
for land life, reveals itself as a mammal, a 
primate, a human being ; the ductless glands 
exert their action, and very considerable 
changes of proportion are brought about. 

Now, in lower vertebrates, such as frogs, 
newts and fishes, in which the eggs are laid 
free in the water, biologists have found it 
possible to play a great many tricks upon 
development. They have been able to make 
a single egg produce twins or double mon- 
sters, either by mechanical constriction or by 
depriving it of oxygen at a certain critical 
stage. By exposing eggs to a temperature- 
gradient they have been able to make them 
grow into embryos with big heads and small 
tails, or vice versa, or with one lateral half of 
the body bigger than the other, according to 

5 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

the direction of the gradient. They can re- 
duce and even abolish the organs in the front 
of the head by exposing certain early stages 
of development to narcotics, and can exag- 
gerate their size by stimulants. In frogs and 
trout, by delaying fertilization, they have 
been able to make eggs that ought to produce 
females, prodiice males instead (but, as they 
still contain the chromosomes of females, they 
can produce nothing but female offspring in 
the next generation). 

All this is by treatment in the stages before 
definitive vertebrate ground-plan is laid 
down. But after this, all sorts of control are 
still possible. By the comparatively crude 
process of grafting, limbs and organs can be 
shifted from their proper positions, and made 
to grow almost anywhere the experimenter 
wishes. By exposing the young animal to 
different conditions, the functional response 
of its organs can be brought into play in very 
different ways : for instance, a young sala- 
mander can be made to produce gills several 
times as big and branched as normal by 
keeping it in poorly-aerated water, while its 

5* 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

brother, kept in water artificially over- 
oxygenated, will have gills that are mere 
stumps. 

By removing the animal's ductless glands 
at a very early stage, profound modifica- 
tions of development can be made to occur. 
Tadpoles with either their thyroid or their 
pituitary removed will never turn into frogs ; 
the presence of the pituitary seems to be 
necessary for the full development of the 
reproductive organs as well as for proper 
growth ; and so on. Conversely, giving an 
excess of the secretion of this or that gland 
may have striking effects, and the earlier the 
treatment begins the more striking it will be. 
Young tadpoles given the right dose of 
thyroid will develop into frogs no bigger than 
house-flies, and with abnormally small limbs. 

Then we are just beginning to know how 
to influence the rate of growth. Certain 
sulphur-containing compounds have been 
shown to stimulate growth in a marked 
way, and certain others to slow it down, the 
stimulating or retarding effect depending on 
whether the compounds are not or are oxi- 

52 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

dized. What Is especially interesting is that 
they appear to influence that sort of growth 
which depends upon the multiplication of 
cells, and not that which depends upon the 
cells' increase in size, so that by their use we 
ought to be able, not only to control growth 
in general, but to affect the growth of some 
organs more than others and so alter the 
animal's proportions. 

This is all very interesting theoretically, 
but how could it be applied to organisms 
where, as in man, all the early and most 
susceptible stages of development are safely 
locked away in the mother's womb ? Here, 
again, various possibilities suggest them- 
selves. Many of my readers will remember 
how Mr Haldane in his Daedalus envisaged 
the possibility of * ectogenesis/ or the bring- 
ing up of babies in incubators instead of in 
their mothers' bodies. We are a long way 
from realizing that possibility, and yet, in the 
short space of time since he wrote, the first 
step has been successfully taken. Professor 
Warren Lewis, of Baltimore, has succeeded 
in cultivating rabbits' eggs outside the body, 

E 53 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

from a moment immediately after fertiliza- 
tion to about a week later, when they have 
enlarged considerably and the embryo is 
showing the beginnings of organization. He 
has even recorded their development on the 
cinematograph ; and it is one of the most 
astonishing spectacles to see, on the speeded- 
up film, the processes of cell-division, of 
organization, of growth, which have never 
before in any mammal taken place in the 
light of day, going on in the unfamiliar en- 
vironment of a drop of nutrient fluid in a 
glass dish just as happily as in the dark 
recesses of the Fallopian tube, just as regu- 
larly as if the eggs were the eggs of sea-urchin 
or starfish in which development customarily 
takes place outside the body. 

True, this is only the first step, and much 
harder ones remain to be taken ; but if we 
reflect that it is not a century since the nature 
of fertilization and the mere external appear- 
ance of the early stages of development was 
discovered, it will be seen what progress 
biology has made. 

If ectogenesis were ever possible, we could 

54 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

play all the tricks we liked on the early 
development of man ; and, as it is only 
during early development that there is the 
possibility of effecting any large alterations in 
the fundamental plan of the organism, its im- 
portance can be seen. For instance, the limit 
to human brain-power probably lies in the 
size of the female pelvis, which cannot give 
birth to babies with heads above a certain 
size. Abolish this cramping restriction, and 
you could embark upon an attempt to en- 
large the human brain. Furthermore, as 
Haldane pointed out, ectogenesis would make 
it possible to practise an intensity and rapidity 
of eugenic selection enormously beyond what 
can be done if the human species keeps to its 
ancestral methods of development ; but that 
is another story. 

Then we must remember that much more 
of our growth takes place before birth than 
after. I shall be reminded that we weigh 
about seven pounds at birth, and perhaps a 
hundred and fifty at maturity. But growth 
is essentially a process of self-multiplication, 
so that the measure of growth is the number 

55 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

of times a piece of living substance multiplies 
itself. And, judged by this criterion, the pre- 
natal period is vastly more important. For 
the fertilized egg weighs about one-hundredth 
of a milligram, so that the baby at birth is 
about three hundred million times as large as 
when it began its independent career, while 
after birth it will only multiply itself about 
twenty times. Even from the time when the 
general plan is well established, the multi- 
plication before birth is round about a million 
times. 

Now this is important when we are con- 
sidering changes of proportion. Changes of 
proportion are brought about owing to 
different parts or organs possessing slightly 
different rates of growth. In just the same 
way, two sums of money increasing at 
different rates of compound interest will be 
continually changing their proportionate 
amounts. The legs, for instance, grow a 
little faster than the trunk, the head a little 
slower. If we could find a means of altering 
the growth-rate of an organ, even by the 
merest fraction, during the whole of the pre- 

56 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

natal period, we should make a big difference 
in the proportions of the resulting body. We 
are beginning to understand a little about the 
factors controlling the growth of parts rela- 
tive to each other, and may perhaps be 
allowed to toy with the idea of controlling the 
process, producing at will stocky and thick- 
set fellows or leaner types with long legs and 
a long reach. And this, as well as other in- 
terferences with normal development, might 
well be possible, even if we could not cultivate 
the embryo outside the body, by means of 
injections. 

Such speculations are worth thinking over ; 
they seem far less unlikely candidates for 
realization within a century than would have 
appeared some of the modern applications 
of physico-chemical science, such as beam 
wireless, or million-volt transformers, or 
synthetic dyestuffs, to the physicists and 
chemists of a hundred years ago. However, 
there are other possibilities more nearly 
within our grasp, of which it is perhaps 
more profitable to speak ; and here we shall 
see very clearly the restriction of earlier 

57 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

work to the medical side and to the rectifi- 
cation of defect. 

Everybody to-day knows of the existence of 
the ductless glands. Indeed, the layman's 
idea of their powers is often exaggerated. 
Popular writers on science have been apt to 
let their enthusiasm run away with them, and 
imply that ' glands ' are all-important that 
the construction of the brain counts for much 
less in regard to personality than does the 
balance of the ductless glands, that they are 
omnipotent as far as the chemical regulation 
of the body is concerned, or that changes in 
the degree of their activity will account for a 
large part of vertebrate evolution. 

But, even if we discount such one-sidedness, 
there is no doubt that they are of the greatest 
significance in the life of ourselves and other 
backboned animals. From one aspect they 
represent what we may call the chemical 
skeleton of the animal, each gland producing 
the same kind of stuff throughout its evolu- 
tionary career, whether in fish, frog, bird or 
human being. From another, some of them 
at least can be looked on as nature's drugs, 

58 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

capable of whipping up the activities of 
ordinary flesh to otherwise unattainable 
heights, and yet without evil after-effects. 
Remove the human thyroid, for instance, 
and the general chemical activity of the body 
is cut down by about half. The thyroid 
hormone, as has aptly been said, is to the 
slow fire of living metabolism what a forced 
draught is to a furnace. The adrenal can 
discharge into the blood a substance which 
energizes the whole organism for emer- 
gencies. The hormone of the reproductive 
organs can sensitize the brain so that its 
activities are concentrated upon the opposite 
sex, and all else falls into a secondary place : 
in some cases even food is forgotten the 
bull sea-elephant during the rut will go for 
weeks without once eating. 

And every ductless gland has important 
functions to perform. The pituitary controls 
obesity, is concerned with gingering up 
placidity and sleepiness of temperament, pro- 
motes growth of the skeleton, is needed for 
the development of thyroid and reproductive 
organs. The thyroid is necessary for the 

59 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

development of normal brain-power and nor- 
mal stature, and, in addition to its general 
function of forced draught, regulates the 
scale of temperament from sluggish to 
nervously excitable. The adrenal is con- 
cerned with the normal course of sexual 
development, and is responsible, it appears, 
for much of the general tone of the body 
as well as for the emergency energizing 
of which we have already spoken. The 
pancreas enables our tissues to utilize carbo- 
hydrate food ; the parathyroid helps them 
to utilize lime, and probably keeps growth 
in check, while its deficiency induces one 
kind of tetany. The reproductive organs 
are responsible for the physical and mental 
differences between the sexes, as well as for 
the urge to love. 

Thus most, and perhaps all of them, exert 
an effect upon, or perhaps we should say make 
a contribution to temperament, and many of 
them influence the proportions of the body. 

Physique and temperament here are the 
arcana of individuality. It would be natural 
to suppose that biological science would have 

60 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

exploited to the full the possibility of control 
disclosed by its discoveries concerning the 
ductless glands, and would be capable of 
moulding the individual to its will ; yet this 
is very far from being the case. The know- 
ledge has been used practically, but almost 
solely in the medical field. The control prac- 
tised has been almost exclusively the control 
of markedly abnormal conditions. Insulin is 
given to correct diabetes : cretins may be 
restored to normality by thyroid treatment ; 
grafts and extracts of the reproductive glands 
have been used successfully in under-sexed 
cases and in precocious senility ; para- 
thyroid helps in certain defective states of 
bones or teeth ; and so on and so forth. 
These uses of our knowledge are important ; 
they have saved many lives, rescued many 
people from ill-health. Yet the larger field 
remains almost untouched. Various patho- 
logical extremes of temperament, like those 
of a nervous, pop-eyed sufferer from Graves' 
Disease or of the Fat Boy in Pickwick, are 
known to be due to disturbances of ductless 
gland function ; and so are various physio- 

61 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

logical extremes of physique, like the long- 
limbed giant, the heavy-faced and large- 
handed and large-footed acromegalic, the 
type who will put on vast quantities of flesh 
whatever his diet (the Fat Boy again), or the 
Peter Pan type of semi-dwarf who, though 
perfectly proportioned, never grows up fully. 
It is further quite certain that differences 
of temperament and proportion which fall 
within the normal range are also in large 
measure due to differences in the balance of 
these same glands. What we are pleased to 
call the normal, however, includes a great 
many conditions which we regret. Poor 
general tone, hyper-sensibility, precocious 
obesity, premature ageing, growth which 
while stunted or over-lanky can hardly be 
called abnormal, undue shortness of arms 
and legs, unreflective energy and impetuosity 
that can hardly be called maniac but are 
always leading its possessor into awkward 
situations, placidity that oversteps the mark 
and becomes downright and cowlike dullness 
there is no doubt that such endowments are 
more often than not due to some unusual con- 

62 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

dition of the ductless glands. Would it not be 
admirable if we were in a position to remedy 
such flaws ? would it not be convenient if 
we were able to adjust our temperament 
within reason to our circumstances ? 

Why then has so little been accomplished 
in this field ? For one thing, because our 
knowledge is so recent. We must not forget 
that almost all the real advances in the study 
of the ductless glands date only from the 
present century, though fundamental pioneer 
work was accomplished about fifty years ago ; 
the very word hormone is not thirty years old. 
Secondly, because in most cases the spur to 
discovery has first been applied by medicine : 
diseased conditions demanded cure, and the 
cause was found to reside in the defectiveness 
of this or that gland. But mainly because the 
subject is so complex. The earlier work in 
this field established the fact that each gland 
had some definite function : we could think 
of the thyroid doing this and the pituitary 
doing that, in the same clear-cut way, it 
seemed, as one could think of the cranium 
protecting the brain or the heart pumping 

63 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

the blood. But later work has shown that 
this picture is a gross over-simplification. 
Each gland does have a definite main func- 
tion ; but it can only exert that function by 
virtue of what other glands are doing or have 
previously done, and by its own function it is 
always modifying the working of its fellow- 
glands. The system of the ductless glands is, 
in fact, in a condition of elaborate balance ; 
it constitutes, as one writer has well put it, an 
interlocking directorate. 

The thyroid will not develop unless the 
pituitary is present ; and, even when it is 
properly formed, its activity depends in part 
upon pituitary secretion. In the same way 
the reproductive glands need the secretion of 
the adrenal and of the pituitary if they are to 
grow normally. The pituitary gland consists 
of two quite distinct parts ; and in lower 
animals, at least, the action of their two 
secretions is in certain aspects antagonistic. 
Excess of adrenal secretion causes the thyroid 
to damp down its activities. t The different 
glands, in fact, are in a state of delicate 
equilibrium. The secretion of one stimu- 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

lates the activity of a second, depresses that 
of a third, is activated by a fourth, and in- 
hibited by a fifth ; each change which is 
induced reverberates by action and reaction 
through the whole system. 

The complexity of this arrangement has 
only fully dawned upon physiology in the 
last ten or fifteen years ; several decades of 
hard work and patient exploration must 
elapse before the invisible machinery, the 
levers, springs, compensations and adjust- 
ments of this balanced system are fully under- 
stood. And we must set ourselves also to 
understand its variations. It is easy to see 
how a gross defect in one of its members 
will call forth serious symptoms, as when the 
pancreas is overworked, or the thyroid fails 
congenitally to develop. But, in a partner- 
ship so nicely adjusted and balanced, it is at 
the moment hard to understand just what 
underlies those quantitative alterations whose 
effects on temperament and physique remain 
within the bounds of the normal. The 
normal thyroid, for instance, has astonishing 
powers of adjusting its size and its activities 

65 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

to the calls upon it ; what then determines 
that some people strike a balance with a 
slight over-activity of thyroid, others with a 
slight under-activity ? 

But it must be possible to find answers 
to these questions ; and once the answers 
have been found, hitherto undreamt-of possi- 
bilities open out of control over the very 
essence of our selves, over both physical and 
mental aspects of our organism. 

The same sort of possibilities lie before the 
study of drugs. They, too, have in the past 
been used mainly for therapeutic purposes, 
to remedy definite defects of working in the 
bodily machine to spur a flagging heart, to 
kill the germs of this or that disease, to stop 
bleeding, to induce anaesthesia, to promote 
the muscular contraction of the uterus in 
labour, to dull over-excited nerves, and so on. 
But, with rare exceptions, such as caffeine 
and alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, they find 
no place in everyday life ; and of those which 
are so used, many are definitely harmful, and 
the rest can easily be abused. 

Meanwhile the explorations of pharmaco- 

66 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

logy are discovering many remarkable effects 
of chemical substances. Out of coal the phar- 
macologist can prepare acetanilide which will 
bring down the temperature ; with other 
substances he can send the temperature up. 
Out of raw liver he gets a substance which 
will build blood ; out of a Mexican cactus 
he can extract a drug which will promote 
the strength of visual imagery in thinking 
and will make some people hallucinate ; he 
can manufacture out of ordinary materials in 
his laboratory the thyroxin with which the 
thyroid gland stimulates the body to new 
activity ; he can reduce or increase the blood 
pressure at will. But, again, the results have 
been applied almost solely to set right some- 
thing which has gone wrong, not to open 
new doors. 

The fact seems to be that most of us are 
loath to consider this possibility of opening 
new doors, for the reason that those drugs 
which are now used deliberately for that pur- 
pose, like opium, alcohol or cocaine, are so 
readily abused. It seems a new garden on to 
which their doors open ; but it has a way of 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

turning into a prison. On the other hand, 
the very existence of the ductless glands 
reminds us that nature is drugging us every 
day without ill effects. A man whose thyroid 
has become defective must take a perfectly 
definite amount of thyroid extract every day 
if he is to remain in health : too little, and he 
still is sluggish in mind and body too much, 
and he becomes thin and excitable. He 
cannot dispense with jt any more than he can 
dispense with food ; but, whereas normally 
he should make it for himself, now he has to 
be provided with it from the outside. And, 
again, as with food, both too much and too 
little are harmful. 

It should not be impossible to work out a 
combination of pharmacological substances, 
each in the right amount and right propor- 
tion, which would be capable of toning up a 
man's faculties by say ten per cent., and yet 
having no bad after-effect, other than what 
is already exerted by our nervous, rushing 
modern lives. It would be somewhat differ- 
ent according to the kind of work which was 
needed hard physical labour like that of a 

68 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

miner, unremitting activity of various sorts 
like that of a cabinet minister, routine like 
that of a civil servant, pure brain-work like 
that of a mathematician ; and as our know- 
ledge is increased, the prescription could 
be adjusted to individual physique and 
temperament. 

At the end of Jules Romains 5 play, Dr 
Knock, the doctor expatiates on the glories 
he has achieved for medicine, by persuading 
vast numbers of perfectly well people that 
they are ill. With a wave of his hand, he 
reminds his hearers that at this very moment, 
within sight of his house, five thousand 
gullets are swallowing their evening potion, 
and in a moment five thousand temperatures 
will be taken. It would be an even greater 
triumph for medicine if it could invent some- 
thing which would make the average well 
man feel better, and persuade the population 
at large to adopt it, so that not thousands 
but millions would simultaneously be taking 
their c little daily dose/ 

And then there is the psychological side of 
biology. Pure human psychology is at the 

F 69 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

moment a somewhat isolated and esoteric 
science. But it cannot long stay in this posi- 
tion. Accurate studies on the brain, such as 
those of the great Pavlov, are linking it with 
nerve-physiology. Work such as that of 
Kretschmer and Draper is joining it up with 
general physiology and is emphasizing from 
another angle the unity of mind and matter 
within the single organism. The vast amount 
of recent work on animal behaviour which at 
last of late years has paid serious attention 
to the monkeys and apes as well as to cats, 
pigeons, frogs, ants and worms, is providing 
the proper evolutionary background ; by so 
doing, if it may rob human psychology of 
some of its more romantic speculations, it 
will force it into biological sanity. 

Already many new possibilities are open- 
ing up. There is the possibility that we may 
be able to bring children up without the 
deformation of fear, the friction and waste 
engendered by repression, the abnormal pre- 
occupation with sex, which have in the past 
hindered the free use of the energy of human 
minds. We are just beginning to see that the 

70 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

rule-of-thumb methods of our ancestors 
might be replaced by a scientific cultivation 
of the mind, the one as different from the 
other as is modern scientific agriculture from 
the shifting cultivation of a primitive tribe. 

We can see the possibility ; but as yet 
we can hardly envisage the result. What 
changes in conditions of work would be 
demanded by a population bursting with 
mental energy ? What alterations in mar- 
riage and sexual relations in general would 
result from an uninhibited mental attitude 
towards sex ? What would be the result upon 
our political system of an all-round enlarge- 
ment of rationality and freedom ? 

It is impossible to say ; but it is clear that 
the most exciting and, indeed, disturbing 
possibilities loom up before a civilization 
equipped with the psychological knowledge 
which will inevitably have been gained before 
the end of the present century the possi- 
bility of training the mental organism in new 
forms, and of tapping new supplies of mental 
energy in the life of the population as a whole. 

* # * * * * 

71 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

I might have multiplied examples, espe- 
cially from medicine ; I might have spoken 
of the very real possibilities of prolonging life 
so-called c rejuvenation ' opened up by 
various operations on ductless glands. But 
I have, I hope, said enough for my purpose. 
My purpose was simply this : to show that 
biology is entering upon the phase begun by 
physico-chemical science about a century 
ago, where knowledge can be translated on a 
large scale into practical control. This new 
practical control will in many respects have 
more fundamental effects than the old, since 
it will be exerting its influence not on the 
nature around man, but upon man himself. 
The prospect is disturbing, in some ways 
perhaps even alarming. But that is all the 
more reason for facing it in time and in the 
right spirit. There will be no preventing its 
coming, no possibility of holding back the 
tide. But we can prevent its advance being 
piecemeal and haphazard, and can use our 
imaginations ahead of the event. The diffi- 
culty with the applications of science has 
often been that they acquire a momentum of 

72 



BIOLOGY AND THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL 

their own and take charge of events. Samuel 
Butler envisaged industrial humanity as the 
servants, slaves or parasites of the machines 
which represent the latest dominant type of 
existence brought forth by evolution ; and 
there is something in what he said. Man as 
scientist can provide practical control of 
phenomena. It is for man as man to control 
that control. 



73 



CHAPTER III 
Man and his Heredity 

A 7 the instant of our conception, we are 
dealt the hand of cards with which we 
have, willy-nilly, to play the game of life ; 
what hand we shall get at this inevitable 
moment is almost as much a matter of mere 
chance as it is each of the trivial times when 
we pick up the thirteen bits of pasteboard 
from the green baize of the card table. That 
is one of the twentieth-century discoveries of 
biology ; if you prefer, it is an amplification 
of what was in some measure known before. 
But the amplification is so radical that it 
does really constitute a new discovery ; for 
it substitutes for the vague guesses of earlier 
generations the picture of a precise and 
orderly mechanism, for loose and general 
ideas a detailed and accurate scientific theory. 
It is no exaggeration to say that in the thirty 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

years of the present century heredity has 
risen from one of the vaguest and most back- 
ward of the biological subsciences to become 
the discipline in which biology most nearly 
approximates to the type of physics, pattern 
of the natural sciences, in which induction, 
theory, deduction and experimental testing 
play equal and complementary roles in an 
indivisible and rapidly advancing whole. 

Let us return to that moment of destiny 
when our inheritance is decided. How fan- 
tastic is the scene of the microscopic drama, 
how alien from the ideas of other ages the 
ideas which it paints on the background of 
our thought ! There is no generation of life 
by the masculine principle in a mere soil pro- 
vided by the female ; there is no breathing 
in of wholly new life from supernatural or, 
indeed, any external agency. It is not the 
mother's blood which decides the tempera- 
ment and capacities of the child, nor what she 
and still less the father have eaten, drunk, 
experienced or thought about. There is a 
continuity of life and living matter both from 
the father and the mother to the offspring : 

75 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

two fragments of living matter, which have 
detached themselves from the parental 
bodies, unite to form the one fragment which 
will grow into the body of the child ; and 
the child's qualities are determined, in so far 
as heredity has its say in the matter, by the 
particular assortment of chemical units which 
it receives at this instant. 

One inert spherical piece of living matter, 
somewhere about a hundredth of a cubic 
millimetre in bulk, just visible under a hand- 
lens, has been squirted by hydraulic pressure 
out of the water-cushion in which it has 
grown to maturity in the little pinkish warty 
ovary. Wrapped round by the frilled trum- 
pet mouth of the tube which leads from the 
central cavity of the body to the outer world, 
it is forced downwards into the dark and 
corrugated recesses of the duct. There, be- 
cause two human beings, a man and a woman, 
have been led by love or driven by lust, it 
finds itself in the presence of some members 
of a huge population, as great as the entire 
human population of London or New York, 
of strange and altogether microscopic crea- 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

tures, the sperms, which resemble miniature, 
more active, but less intelligent tadpoles 
lashing their tails, being swirled blindly 
hither and thither by the currents all but 
imperceptible to us, violent to them which 
the tube engenders in the fluid cavity by 
means of microscopic hairs ranged upon its 
walls. 

These also are members of the human race, 
for the discoveries of the nineteenth century 
concerning reproduction have shown that we, 
like all higher animals, consist (as Professor 
Punnett has pithily put it) not of two kinds 
of individuals, but four. In addition to the 
familiar large human individuals, men and 
women, there are the much more abundant, 
simpler and tinier human individuals, the 
male and female gametes or reproductive 
cells. In ourselves, the life of these little 
people is short ; but in lower creatures, fish 
or sea-urchins or worms, it is both longer and 
more independent, for they swim or float 
around and meet their fate in the open waters 
of the sea. In the highest types, however, this 
independence has been abolished ; they never 

77 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

see the light of day, but live their little lives 
entirely within the bodies of the other kinds 
of individual. 

But to return to the blind hand of here- 
ditary destiny. No two of these swarming 
millions are alike. Let me explain. I began 
by comparing our hereditary destiny with a 
hand of cards. That is correct as far as it 
goes, but the system is more complicated 
than in any human card game. The cards 
of physical heredity are tiny submicroscopic 
particles called genes. Every one of us has 
two complete packs of these hereditary cards 
in every cell of our bodies, one pack derived 
from our father, one from our mother. But, 
instead of a pack containing fifty-two cards 
only, it contains several hundreds, perhaps 
even thousands. And each kind of card can 
exist in a number of forms : it is as if a Jack 
of Hearts, for instance, were not always just a 
Jack of Hearts, but could be a Jack of Hearts 
one stage above par, so to speak ; or two 
stages above par ; or one, two, three stages 
below par ; or even in a form that differed a 
little in quality as well as quantity from the 

78 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

standard. The different forms have all been 
derived by sudden chemical change or muta- 
tion from the original form, and reproduce 
themselves true to type so long as a further 
mutation does not strike them and change 
them further. 

Now, when the time comes for the forma- 
tion of the little people from the big people, 
the reproductive sperms and eggs from the 
men and women, the double packs are sorted 
out into single packs, and each reproductive 
cell gets one single but complete pack. The 
sorting, however, is of such a nature that it is 
in the highest degree improbable that it will 
ever be done twice in exactly the same way. 
Each reproductive cell receives a whole pack, 
but within this the proportion of hereditary 
cards which came from the mother and those 
which came from the father will never twice 
be the same. 

In the case of the sperms, the process is 
such that, after the separation into single 
packs, each kind of single pack is allotted not 
to one but to two sperms. So that it is not 
strictly true to say that no two are alike ; the 

79 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

sperms exist in the form of innumerable pairs 
of identical twins ; and no two of the pairs 
are alike in the hereditary outfit which they 
carry. In man, normally only one egg is 
formed at a time ; but it has received a 
single gene-pack, and the precise composi- 
tion of this is again a matter of chance. 

Thus the interest of the strange scene 
deepens. Egg and sperms carry the destiny 
of the generations. The egg realizes one 
chance combination out of an infinity of 
possibilities : arid it is confronted with 
millions of pairs of sperms, each one actu- 
ally different in the combination of cards 
which it holds. 

Then comes the final moment in the drama 
the marriage of egg and sperm to produce 
the beginning of a large individual. One 
sperm penetrates the egg, fuses entirely with 
it, and the two single packs of gene-cards are 
mingled to form one new double pack the 
new human being's hereditary destiny. Once 
a single sperm has penetrated the microscopic 
skin of the egg, all the others are destined to 
a sterile death : for at this instant a change 

80 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

takes place in the egg, barring the entry of 
any further sperms. And the marriage is 
absolute ; there is no divorce. 

Here, too, it seems to be entirely a matter 
of chance which particular union of all the 
millions of possible unions shall be consum- 
mated. One might have produced a genius, 
another a moron ; a third would have given 
a robust giant, a fourth an inevitable weak- 
ling ; half must automatically give rise to 
boys, the other half equally automatically to 
girls ; and so on. But which of all the possi- 
bilities shall actually be realized is deter- 
mined by the accident of which sperm is first 
swirled up to the egg and can stay there long 
enough to burrow its pointed nose into its 
partner's transparent flesh. 

With a realization of all that this implies, 
we can banish from human thought a host of 
fears and superstitions. No basis now re- 
mains for any doctrine of metempsychosis ; 
for the belief that maternal impressions or 
meditations can determine the character or 
appearance of the unborn child ; for the 
notion that life is not continuous, but at some 

81 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

specified moment created anew in each 
generation; for the host of beliefs which main- 
tain that sex is determined mainly or wholly 
by diet or other agencies acting after con- 
ception. The ground is cleared for the new 
and scientific doctrine of genetic destiny a 
destiny inevitable so far as it goes, but elastic 
within wide limits in its realization. 

Let us look a little further into the implica- 
tions of this last sentence. 

The biologist is often asked : Which is the 
more important, Heredity or Environment? 
and he cannot answer, for the simple reason 
that the question has no answer. Neither is 
more important, because both are essential. 
The organism at any moment, be it embryo 
or foetus, child or man, is the result of an 
interaction of the particular heredity which 
it has received with the particular environ- 
ment in which it has grown up : or, since 
there is only one hereditary outfit to be con- 
sidered, but an infinity of possible environ- 
ments, we may say that there is an infinity of 
possible expressions of the one heredity, and 
that the actual organism is that one particular 

82 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

expression which has been evolved by that 
one particular environment to which it has 
been exposed. 

So the question which could rightly be 
asked of the biologist is this : Granted that 
we are confronted with two different organ- 
isms men, or cats, or wheat-plants then is 
the difference between them due wholly or 
mainly to a difference in their hereditary 
outfits, or wholly or mainly to a difference 
in their environments during development ? 
And that question can be answered. It can 
never be answered offhand, but it is at least 
capable of being answered if we can lay our 
hands on the right information. 

So that, strictly speaking, no character is 
purely hereditary. We usually say that the 
colour of the eyes in man is purely heredi- 
tary : we mean that, granted a normal pre- 
natal environment which permits of a normal 
human baby being born, the difference be- 
tween blue and brown eyes is due entirely 
to a difference in hereditary outfit. But we 
must not forget that in certain circumstances 
an embryo may develop which has no eyes at 

83 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

all, though it possesses the genes which in 
more favourable conditions would have given 
rise to the eyes ; and, doubtless, if we could 
alter slightly the conditions in the womb, we 
should be able to make babies that ought to 
be blue-eyed grow brown eyes, or vice versa. 
So let us never forget that the individual man 
or woman is always one of many possible 
expressions of a particular heredity reacting 
with one of many possible environments, just 
as the result of a rubber of bridge is due to an 
interaction between the hands dealt with the 
play of the four players. Or, again, the in- 
heritance is like the seed, the environment 
like the soil ; and the organism is like the 
resultant plant. 

Clearly these facts are full of implications 
alike for our philosophical outlook and our 
practical statesmanship. But before we need 
worry our heads over the subtleties of genetic 
difference, we are confronted by the simpler 
racial problem of mere quantity the regula- 
tion of population, both on a national and a 
world- wide scale. Humanity is so used to 
individualism in this matter that not even 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

Communistic Russia or Fascist Italy has yet 
envisaged any but the most indirect means of 
attacking the problem. So that the first 
thing to accomplish is to get accustomed to 
the idea that it can be attacked directly. For 
instance, in the present economic crisis where 
over-production grimly faces underemploy- 
ment, plenty of remedies have been proposed 
which envisage adjusting economic processes 
like production to population ; but, so far as 
I am aware, not one responsible person has 
even suggested that the reverse procedure 
may be equally necessary : in other words, 
that without also beginning deliberately to 
adjust population to economic processes, the 
problem will never be solved. The only 
moves in that direction have been the re- 
strictions proposed upon immigration ; but 
these by themselves will be quite negligible 
in their effects. 

But how could one even attempt the direct 
control of quantity of population ? That 
doubtless is what the ordinary intelligent man 
or woman of to-day will exclaim. It would 
be an impossible interference with individual 
G 85 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

liberty, an unwarranted tampering with a 
sacred function ! The answer to this is 
simple cease looking at the problem from 
inside the narrow circle of the ordinary ideas 
of your time ; get outside yourself into the 
spaciousness of history and the liberty of pure 
reasonableness, and you will see that neither 
objection has any necessary validity. Things 
are sacred because we think them sacred ; 
and, in any case, sanctity is no argument 
against deliberate political control, as witness 
the numerous national churches, or the State 
regulation of marriage. Innumerable sancti- 
ties have had the tabu taken out of them and 
been subjected to reasonable regulation, and 
yet have not ceased to possess their essential 
sacredness. As for liberty, what greater in- 
fringement of personal liberty can there be 
than conscription of individual men for war ? 
and if over- or under-population is a danger 
to the national fabric, why not conscrip- 
tion of reproduction for peace ? Before the 
nature of infectious diseases was understood, 
the regulations in force to-day as to notifica- 
tion, quarantine, and so forth would have 

86 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

been regarded as gross infringements of per- 
sonal liberty : compulsory education was by 
many people regarded in the same light. So, 
as the processes of population-growth and 
their effects are better understood and real- 
ized, we shall cease to regard them as mys- 
teries beyond our interference, but see in 
them yet another field which the labours of 
knowledge have made ripe for the harvest of 
rational control. 

A simple method for exerting some control 
over population-growth, which could be 
introduced as soon as the obvious course has 
been taken of making birth-control informa- 
tion freely available to all, would be to link it 
on to public relief. A married man, whether 
through his own fault or that of economic 
forces beyond his control, is being supported 
wholly or mainly out of public funds. The 
State may fairly be asked to see that neither 
he nor his family shall starve ; but it may 
fairly ask in return that he shall not increase 
the load to be carried, by increasing the size 
of his family. Continuance of relief could 
quite easily be made conditional upon his 

8? 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

having no more children. Infringement of 
this order could probably be met by a short 
period of segregation, say in a labour camp. 
After three or six months 5 separation from 
his wife he would be likely to be more careful 
next time. Sterilization has been suggested, 
but this seems disproportionate save in recidi- 
vist cases of philoprogenitiveness which seem 
otherwise incurable. 

As a matter of fact, although at the moment 
the need for restriction of births seerns the 
more urgent in crowded countries like our 
own, it is more than likely that the opposite 
need may in a comparatively short time 
prove the more serious. Let us take an 
example. In Great Britain the population is 
still increasing at the rate of over 200,000 per 
annum. But this increase is, biologically 
speaking, illusory. It is a mere after-effect of 
the fact that the grandparents of the young 
people of to-day had a much higher birth- 
rate than have their parents. Accordingly 
the grandparents produced a large crop of 
human beings of reproductive age in the next 
generation. But the next crop has been far 

88 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

smaller ; so that when it in its turn comes to 
reproductive age, it will, except in the purely 
supposititious and very unlikely event of their 
changing their reproductive habits and hav- 
ing much larger families than their parents, 
give rise to a much smaller absolute crop of 
babies. In other words, it takes at least two 
generations for a fall in the birth-rate to 
exert its full effect. It has an immediate 
effect in lowering the number of babies born ; 
and an even more important effect in lower- 
ing the number of prospective parents for the 
next generation. 

Or we can look at the matter in another 
way. The present rate of increase would not 
exist if, simultaneously with the fall in the 
birth-rate, there had not been a general fall 
in the death-rate. In other words, fewer 
babies are born, but proportionately more of 
them survive to maturity and old age. The 
effect of this, which will be shown markedly 
about twenty years hence, is that the com- 
position of the population is changing : it is 
coming to consist more of old people, less of 
young people. But we must all die some time. 

89 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

So that as the average age of the population 
goes up, an automatic increase of the death- 
rate will set in. This is the chief reason why 
the death-rate in France is so much higher than 
in England, while the birth-rate is about the 
same. It is not so much that France's popu- 
lation does not increase because of its high 
death-rate, as that it shows a high death-rate 
because it has not been increasing appreciably 
for a couple of generations. 

And, finally, this leads on to another con- 
sideration. During the last half century 
birth-rate and death-rate have pretty well 
kept pace with each other in their fall. But 
there is a fundamental difference between 
them ; for whereas the death-rate cannot 
fall below a certain quite appreciable figure, 
the birth-rate could conceivably fall to zero. 
Concretely, while we cannot expect any large 
reduction in the death-rate during the re- 
mainder of the present century, it is perfectly 
possible and even likely that the birth-rate 
may continue its downward career. Cinemas, 
motor-cars, cheap luxuries, travel, the general 
cult of having a good time these all com- 

9 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

pete either financially or psychologically with 
children. The more we equalize opportun- 
ity, the more facilities for enjoyment or self- 
development our civilization provides to the 
economically lower strata of society, the 
fewer children are they likely to have. And 
as it is these classes alone which at the present 
moment are producing enough children to 
reproduce themselves, the effect will be 
marked. 

The net result of what I have been saying 
is this. That, even if the present birth- and 
death-rates remain unchanged, the popula- 
tion of Great Britain will be declining in 
twenty years' time. But we have every 
reason to suppose that the birth-rate will fall 
much faster than the death-rate, so that the 
decline will probably begin earlier and pro- 
ceed more rapidly. Approximately the same 
is true for other Western European nations 
such as Germany ; and even the United 
States, according to that eminent statistician 
Dr Dublin, will see its downward turning- 
point about 1970. 

Then, of course, there will be a hullabaloo, 

9 1 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

and we shall hear much wild talk about deca- 
dence, the collapse of Western civilization, 
race-suicide, and the like. The question will, 
however, remain what is to be done about 
it ? Propaganda, of the right sort, may exert 
a real influence on the public mind. But as 
the reasons for small families are largely 
economic, we must look to economic agencies 
for a large part of what correction may be 
necessary, Bonuses for very large families 
will accomplish next to nothing, because 
large families are rare phenomena, and the 
agencies at work are universal or, at least, 
general. We shall, therefore, have to have 
recourse to some form of family allowance 
scheme, designed with definite biological 
ends in view. But as family allowance 
schemes must take quality as well as quan- 
tity into account, I will leave their con- 
sideration until later. 

A more difficult, though also a more ex- 
citing, set of problems confronts us when we 
come to think of the quality of population 
in other words, when we begin to be 
Eugenists. 

92 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

It is convenient to pigeonhole our ideas, 
and the usual way of pigeonholing our ideas 
on eugenics is to divide the subject into nega- 
tive and positive. Negative eugenics is con- 
cerned with preventing degeneration, while 
positive eugenics aims at the improvement of 
the human stock. Perhaps a better method 
of classification is to divide the subject into 
short-range and long-range eugenics. Short- 
range eugenics concerns itself merely with 
altering the proportions of already exist- 
ing and commonly recurring human types 
within the total population, while long-range 
eugenics sets itself the aim of bringing new 
types into existence. And both of these, of 
course, have their positive and their negative 
sides. 

I said that short-range eugenics aimed 
merely at altering the proportions of existing 
kinds of human beings. That merely must be 
taken in relation to the much larger aims of 
long-range eugenics, and to the slow and 
enormous processes of Evolution in general. 
In relation to human history (itself so far a 
short-range process, biologically considered), 

93 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

short-range eugenics is of utmost importance, 
and may well turn out to be the most urgent 
human problem of the next few centuries. 
For do not let us forget that the human race 
consists of an astounding variety and range of 
different kinds of men. From savage to Nordic 
business man, from hunting pigmy to Chinese 
sage, the race is prodigal in types ; and even 
within the single race or nation we range 
from imbecile and moron to man of talent 
or genius, from those congenitally weak and 
susceptible to disease to those born to be 
champion athletes, those who through in- 
heritance lack moral or aesthetic feeling to 
those hypersensitive to virtue or to beauty. 
And even when we have made all allowances 
for environment and upbringing, the major 
part of these differences in type is due to 
differences in inborn constitutions. Even if 
we leave the rare extremes out of account, 
the monsters and the idiots, the hyper- 
sensitives and geniuses, any reshuffling of the 
proportions of the types that are left will be 
important enough. It matters a great deal 
whether one quarter or three quarters of the 

94 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

community shall have their brains of poor 
quality or of good quality ; whether the pro- 
portion of those endowed by nature with 
initiative be halved or doubled ; whether, 
when we have made England a home fit for 
heroes to live in, we shall find that there are 
fewer heroes and more human sheep to in- 
habit it ; whether congenital debility and 
defect goes up or down. 

Let us take the case of mental defect in 
illustration. I am using the term mentally 
defective in its strict sense, of some one with 
such a feeble mind that he cannot support 
himself or look after himself unaided, and not 
in the loose sense which would include the 
much larger class of borderline types gener- 
ally called morons by American writers. 
The number of such mentally defective 
persons in Great Britain is now over 300,000, 
according to a very careful Government 
Report published in 1929 ; in other words, 
one in every hundred-and-twenty of our 
population is through sheer insufficiency of 
brains incapable of pulling his weight in the 
national life ; and this, of course, leaves on 

95 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

one side all those incapable on account of 
insanity or of purely physical handicap. 

That is bad enough. But there is worse 
behind it. Another committee reported on 
the same subject twenty-five years previously, 
and it found a far lower proportion of mental 
defectives. 1 We are making two mental 
defectives grow where only one grew before. 

The only plausible reason advanced for this 
state of affairs is that it is an effect of the im- 
provement in our measures of public health 
and preventive medicine, especially with 
regard to infant welfare. Mentally defective 
children are on the average less resistant 
in other ways ; and their usual upbringing 
leaves more to be desired than that of normal 
children. Accordingly, if our infant welfare 
schemes save a thousand babies which other- 

1 It may be objected that the increase from then till 
now might be only apparent, due to a greater ease in the 
ascertainment of defect ; the earlier committee simply 
missed a lot of defectives. But for a variety of technical 
reasons this appears quite definitely not to be the case. 
At its face value the increase in twenty-five years re- 
presents an actual doubling of the percentage of mental 
defectives. When all possible allowances have been made, 
the real increase, it would seem, must be considerable. 

96 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

wise would have died, we are likely to save a 
disproportionate number of mentally defec- 
tive children among them. Nine hundred 
and ninety of them may be fine babies, whose 
preservation is a national asset ; but if the 
remaining ten are mental defectives, and if 
ten per thousand is a higher proportion of 
defectives than exists in the population at 
large, then we are increasing the percentage 
of defectives in the new generation. By re- 
ducing the rigour of natural selection, we are 
allowing an undue proportion of unfit types 
to survive. And, as in all probability, new 
hereditary variations towards defectiveness 
are more common than those towards an 
improvement of the type, there is no saying 
where such a process may end. 

What is to be done about it ? The purely 
biological method of keeping the stock up to 
standard by natural selection is, though effec- 
tive, cruel and uneconomical. It involves 
wholesale destruction to make sure that the 
few types you want destroyed shall be in- 
cluded in the holocaust, thus showing a 
resemblance to Elia's account of the original 

97 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

method for obtaining roast pork. It is of the 
essence of civilization to set its face against 
such haphazard, blind and wasteful methods. 

There is only one immediate thing to be 
done to ensure that mental defectives shall 
not have children. Whether this should be 
achieved by the prohibition of marriage, or, 
as many believe, by combining the method 
of segregation in institutions with that of 
sterilization for those who are at large, is not 
our present concern. We want a general 
agreement that it is not in the interests of 
the present community, the race of the fu- 
ture, or the children who might be born to 
defectives, that defectives should beget off- 
spring. When discussing concrete proposals, 
this simple question should always be in 
mind : c Do you want mentally defective 
people to have children ? ' 

If, by whatever means, defectives can be 
prevented from reproduction, then, since the 
considerable majority of mental defect is due 
to hereditary factors, it will decrease from 
generation to generation. The decrease will, 
unfortunately, not be very fast, since much 

98 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

hereditary defect is caused by what are 
known as recessive factors, which can be 
carried in a latent state by apparently normal 
people. When two such c carriers ' mate, they 
will produce a certain proportion of defec- 
tive children. But, in spite of this, to prevent 
defectives themselves from having children 
would, in point of fact, steadily decrease the 
percentage of defectives in each generation. 

The next step, could it only be achieved, 
would be to discover how to diagnose the 
carriers of defects. If these could but be de- 
tected, and then discouraged or prevented 
from reproduction, mental defect could very 
speedily be reduced to quite small propor- 
tions among our population. There is no- 
thing inherently improbable in our being 
able to discover a test for carriers : but we 
have not done so yet, and have no very 
immediate prospect of doing so in the future. 

There is, of course, a still further question : 
how the original defective genes which are 
responsible for inherited mental defect were 
produced in the first place. Of this we know 
next to nothing, save that they must, on 

99 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

analogy with hereditary defect in animals, 
have arisen as a sudden sport or mutation. 
We know, further, that mutations arise hap- 
hazard in a very small proportion of a popu- 
lation, and that X-rays seem to have some- 
thing to do with their production. 

But even if we knew just what caused the 
lamentable mutations that led to inherited 
mental defect, and even if we could go 
further and prevent any more such muta- 
tions from occurring, we should not be able 
by this means to do much towards the reduc- 
tion of mental defect. For almost all the 
inherited mental defect in existence, and all 
the latent defect in the bodies of carriers, 
owes its existence to mutations which have 
taken place generations ago. The only way 
of effectively reducing inherited mental de- 
fect is to prevent the breeding of those who 
carry it, whether in visible or invisible form. 

I have spent some time over this question, 
since it brings up the issues of short-range 
eugenics in clear-cut form. There is in pro- 
cess a change in the proportion of genetic 
type within our population : it is a regret- 

100 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

table change : we can give a reasonable 
explanation for it : and we can envisage 
practical measures for putting an end to the 
racial degeneration which it involves. 

But a more penetrating prophecy of de- 
generation has recently been given by Dr 
R. A. Fisher, 1 whose mathematical talents, so 
long devoted to the analysis of experimental 
agriculture, are now fertilizing eugenics as 
well as the general theory of evolution. 

His starting point is the celebrated observa- 
tion made by Galton, that noble (or other) 
families whose representatives marry heiresses 
tend to die out with abnormal frequency. 
This fact Galton brilliantly explained by 
pointing out that the heiresses would not have 
been heiresses if they were not members of 
very small families, so that the probability 
was that they inherited, together with their 
wealth, a congenital tendency to low fertility. 
Thus two factors which are not of necessity in- 
terconnected, female wealth and low fertility, 
are automatically brought into conjunction. 

1 In The Genetical Basis of Natural Selection (Oxford Press, 
1930). 

H 101 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

Fisher has simply generalized this par- 
ticular case, and applied the principle to 
society as a whole. He points out that in 
primitive societies, organized for efficiency in 
war, with polygamy as the recognized prac- 
tice, the qualities which made for success 
would in general come to be coupled with an 
increased fertility. For prowess on the whole 
will lead to success, and success to more 
wives : while large families are not only 
honoured and applauded but, far from being 
an economic or social drag, are a help and a 
solace to their parents. But the historical 
change from tribal times, through an aristo- 
cratic period where wealth was based on 
land, to unrestricted commercialism or indi- 
vidualism, particularly since coupled with 
the change to monogamy, and particularly 
in its later stages when the world is filling up, 
has completely altered the picture. And 
Fisher lays down as a general law that in any 
society of our general economic type, the two 
biologically independent variables of those 
tendencies making for success and those mak- 
ing for low fertility, of social necessity become 

102 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

coupled together. And since these tendencies 
are largely genetic, the result is a progressive 
and cumulative diminution within the popu- 
lation of the proportion of gene-units making 
for success, and therefore of the successful 
type of person. 

I speak of c tendencies/ These may be of 
the most varied nature. The tendencies 
making for low fertility may be purely physio- 
logical, such as defects in the reproductive 
apparatus ; they may be temperamental, like 
extreme caution ; they may have a more 
complex psychological basis, as when ambi- 
tion overrides desire for children. And the 
tendencies making for success may be pure 
intellect or mere energy, charm or ruthless- 
ness, personal magnetism or literary genius. 
So long as there is any hereditary basis for 
these, the coupling of them together can have 
only one result the decrease within the 
stock of the qualities which make for success. 
For of two business or professional men of 
equal brains and ability but different number 
of children, the one with the fewer children 
will usually be able to concentrate more on 

103 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

his work, to avoid more worries, to rise more 
rapidly ; and, what is biologically even of 
greater importance, his children will receive 
a better education, more chances of travel 
and pleasure, a more favourable start in life, 
a greater financial inheritance at his death, 
and be able to contract marriages that 
socially and financially are more eligible. 
Conversely, of two men with the same-sized 
families, but of differing abilities, the one 
with more of the qualities making for success 
will usually rise the faster. And this applies 
throughout society in so far as society is com- 
mercial and individualistic. It will not apply 
of necessity to the lowest grades of unskilled 
labour ; but as this stratum must presumably 
contain more than its due proportion of un- 
successful types who have slipped down the 
social ladder, and as families in this stratum 
are well above the average size, actually it 
provides no exception. The only notable 
exception concerns that type of agriculture 
in which the children can be usefully em- 
ployed from an early age, and are therefore 
an asset ; but this constitutes but a very 

104 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

small and a decreasing fraction of modern 
society. 

Let us give two examples to point the 
moral. Most people would agree that men 
who have been educated at Harvard come 
from stock which is above the average of 
success in America. Now, if Harvard were 
to recruit itself entirely from the sons of its 
alumni, then, even if every Harvard man were 
compelled to send his sons to the old college, 
the institution would progressively and quite 
rapidly decline ; for the average number of 
sons which Harvard alumni now have is not 
three or four, as it would have been in earlier 
ages, not even one, which is necessary to 
maintain the absolute numbers of Harvard- 
educated stock, but only about three-quarters. 

The other example comes from England. 
In the census of 191 1, the only one for which 
accurate figures on this subject are available, 
the population was grouped into five main 
economic classes, of which the highest in- 
cluded all the professional classes, as well as 
some others, while the lowest consisted of un- 
skilled labour. This lowest economic class 

105 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

had a fertility which, even after all correc- 
tions were made for infant mortality, age of 
marriage and so forth, was not only about 
double that of the professional group, but 
was nearly fifty per cent, above that of the 
population as a whole. As a result, the eco- 
nomically least successful twenty per cent, of 
the working population existing in 1911 gave 
rise to about twenty-five per cent, of the next 
generation of Englishmen. 

It is of course obvious that an unskilled 
labourer need not be genetically inferior to a 
member of the professional classes ; a dust- 
man may be superior to a Duke in eugenic 
as in moral worth. But in so far as any 
ladder of opportunity exists, it provides a 
means whereby the better endowed may 
rise in the social-economic scale, the worse 
endowed may sink. This must bring about 
a certain difference in the average inherited 
endowment of the different strata : and in 
evolution it is average values which count. 

Fisher further goes on to point out that, far 
from man being universally more exempt 
from natural selection than are wild species 

1 06 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

of animal or plant, in regard to one charac- 
teristic at least he is exceptionally subject to 
selective influences, and that is fertility. The 
reason for this is that human beings vary far 
more in regard to their actual fertility than 
do wild species of animals or plants. Lions 
may vary from, say, two to five in number of 
offspring, snowshoe rabbits from perhaps 
three to twelve ; but human families range 
regularly from zero to ten, fifteen, or even 
twenty. The number of couples with two, 
one, or no children, is relatively large ; and 
thus the possessors of six, five, or even four 
children, are at an enormous reproductive 
advantage. If this were all, then the quicker- 
multiplying stocks would simply increase at 
the expense of the slower, a process which we 
may observe in Eastern Canada to-day. But 
if other qualities, desirable or undesirable, 
come to be associated with fertility, then the 
automatic reproductive selection which fer- 
tility brings will change the stock in these 
regards as well. And the evolutionary 
changes thus effected can be, as Fisher points 
out, far more rapid than any evolutionary 

107 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

change brought about by selection in any 
non-human species. 

What, then, is the effect of this coupling, 
which has come into being through the 
agency of our economic system, of the 
tendencies to failure and fertility ? There 
are tender-minded people and liberal doc- 
trinaires who will seriously argue that the 
qualities which make for success are, on 
balance, not particularly good, or even that 
they are evil. Ruthlessness, egotism, vul- 
garity, double-dealing, subservience, the 
limitations that are willing to concentrate on 
dull routine all these only too often make 
for success, and it is a good thing that the 
race should be purged of them. 

Granted ; but we must not forget that 
brains, energy, concentration, special gifts, 
devotion to ideals these too in general make 
for success. And most people would, I think, 
agree that this second list more than counter- 
balances the first ; for even if vulgarity 
and ruthlessness and the rest are unpleasant, 
they can be combated ; but without brains, 
energy, and special talents, the world would 

1 08 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

both collapse and cease to be worth living in. 
It is true that there is scriptural warrant for 
the view that the meek shall inherit the 
earth : and a tendency in that direction is 
one result of our modern civilization. But it 
is only one result ; the other tendencies are 
for the stupid to inherit the earth, and the 
shiftless, and the imprudent, and the dull. 
And this is a prospect neither scriptural nor 
attractive. 

I for one regard the state of affairs as de- 
finitely gloomy. What, then, is the remedy 
for it ? One is to alter your whole economic 
and social system ; but that, however desir- 
able, could only be brought about so slowly 
that the cumulative dysgenic process would 
have had time to work a very great deal of 
harm before the remedy began to be effective. 
This may be the ultimate goal : but mean- 
while we need some remedy which will work 
within the limits of our existing system. 

R. A. Fisher himself suggests a compre- 
hensive scheme of family allowances, not re- 
stricted to the labouring classes, but running 
right through society ; not all on the same 

109 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

scale, but with the amount per child pro- 
portional to the man's total or at least to his 
earned income. The extension throughout 
society is necessary if the progressive reduc- 
tion in the numbers of the best-trained, most 
intelligent, and most successful stocks is to be 
checked. By the same token, the second pro- 
viso is also necessary. A contribution per 
child which would mean a great deal to an 
unskilled labourer, would be trifling to a 
professional man, while the really successful 
would not even find it worth while to fill in 
the necessary forms. The proviso has the 
additional merit that it is elastic : if the 
economic system changes so that the manual 
workers receive more, the manufacturer or 
organizer less, their family allowances will go 
up or down to suit the new scale. 

At first sight, such a scheme may appear 
unjust and undemocratic, pushing to extreme 
lengths the principle of giving to those who 
already have. But if we look at it in its true 
light, the injustice is seen to be apparent only. 
The scheme is simply intended to remedy the 
existing economic disadvantages of having 

no 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

children : it is an adjustment of wages or 
salaries to the conditions of family life. 
Under our present economic system, we pay 
different amounts to different groups of 
people : one group, say, gets two hundred 
pounds a year, another group two thousand. 
In each group, the man with children is 
being economically handicapped, while the 
childless man is for all practical purposes 
receiving a bonus for his childlessness. The 
suggested scheme of family allowances is 
merely intended as a biological measure, 
designed to equalize matters within each 
group, by correcting wages or salary for 
number of children. If society decrees that 
the poorer classes shall be better paid, or 
that the richer shall get less, the correction 
automatically follows suit. But it is a correc- 
tion which has to be applied for biological 
reasons, and in applying it we must accept 
economic facts as we find them. 

For the wage-earning classes, the system of 
wage-pools, already successfully adopted as 
the basis of the widespread system of family 
allowance in vigour in France, would be 

in 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

satisfactory ; and a similar method could be 
applied to many of the professional classes. 
With those who draw money from many 
sources, like doctors, it would be more difficult 
to devise a scheme which could be put into 
immediate operation ; but once the principle 
had been agreed on, its general application 
could be slowly but surely worked out. 

It is difficult to see any other measure 
which would have any marked effect on this 
degenerative tendency, apart from radical 
change in economic system, as in Russia, or 
equally radical change in social system, in- 
volving State charge of children ; and even 
with such a comprehensive scheme of family 
allowances, it is difficult to believe that the 
process would be wholly checked, for there 
are intangible factors at work, such as the 
desire to be free to travel, to write or do 
research, as well as merely financial con- 
siderations, operating to restrict the size of 
families of successful people ; and there will 
remain the temptation to marry money, and 
with it bring low fertility into the family. 
All one can say is that such a measure, com- 

112 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

bined with similar measures such as free (and 
good) higher education for all, would un- 
doubtedly help to check a process which, if 
left to itself, would inevitably cause the 
collapse of our civilization, and to give us a 
breathing space in which to look for other 
weapons to combat the unfamiliar menace. 

Mr Churchill, when Chancellor of the 
Exchequer a few years ago, in answer to a 
reasoned request for higher income-tax re- 
bates for children, said that, while the aim of 
encouraging the professional classes to have 
more children was in every way praiseworthy, 
it had no connection with the Budget, 
whose only preoccupations were the finances 
of the country. It is precisely such a point 
of view which needs changing. In the long 
run, the quantity and quality of the country's 
population is its basic economic asset. Chan- 
cellors of the Exchequer already consider the 
effect of their proposals upon trade ; there is 
every reason for them to consider their effect 
upon racial stability and racial health. 

Finally, there remains the question of 
what I have styled long-range eugenics the 

"3 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

attempt to alter the character of the human 
race out of its present mould, to lead it on to 
new evolutionary achievements. We are 
sometimes told that the more likely fate for 
humanity is for it, like many another organic 
type, to pass its apogee and degenerate owing 
to the rise of other forms of life ; and 
claimants for the biological throne have been 
named, such as the rat, or even, straying 
outside the vertebrate field, the ant or the 
termite. This prophecy we need not take too 
seriously. There is no likelihood of any 
other animal species becoming a biological 
rival to man. Man is unique among 
organisms in his power of speech and con- 
ceptual thought, which have resulted in his 
equally unique characteristics of an endur- 
ing and cumulative tradition and the power 
of making tools and machines. Thanks to 
these properties he has entrenched himself 
over a wider range of the globe's surface than 
any other kind of animal, and is in a position 
of dominance which would appear to be quite 
impregnable so long as he continues to culti- 
vate his distinctively human characteristics, 

114 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

the proper exercise of which will inevitably 
make for further progress. Nowhere is the 
dictum. Unto him who hath shall be given, 
truer than in the spheres of competitive 
evolution : it is only when the progress of a 
given type is halted that others have the 
chance of ousting it. 

Along these lines, the one possibility is that 
of self-caused degeneration of our species, 
leading to a collapse of the human domina- 
tion which would then leave the door open 
for the rise of other forms of life. There are 
cases known in the paleontological history of 
life which can perhaps be best interpreted as 
a degeneration of the species due to some 
inherent decay of the germ-plasm, rather 
than to competition or changed conditions ; 
but we need not appeal to these ; for man is 
from the biological point of view very young, 
and no one acquainted with the evolutionary 
time-scale could possibly accuse him of racial 
senility. If the human race is to bring about 
its own collapse, it will be because it has 
counteracted the effects of natural selection 
without attempting to put anything in its 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

place, has allowed harmful mutations to 
accumulate instead of weeding them out or 
prevented them from appearing, and in fine 
has neglected eugenic measures. 

The commonest objection to such con- 
structive eugenic ideas is that we do not know 
enough about the subject to decide upon the 
most desirable direction in which to push for- 
ward ; that the views of, say, clerics, medical 
men, politicians, men of science, artists, 
business men and trades union leaders upon 
the most desirable type would be altogether 
at variance ; and that in any case to entrust 
any body of men with the task of deciding 
who should be allowed to propagate, and who 
should not, would be to place too large and 
dangerous a power in their hands. 

But this is to misrepresent the position. 
No eugenist in his senses ever has suggested, 
or ever would suggest, that one particular 
type or standard should be picked out as 
desirable, and all other types discouraged or 
prevented from having children. Here bio- 
logy joins hands with common sense. The 
dictum of common sense, crystallized into a 

116 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

proverb, is that it takes all kinds to make a 
world. The evidence of biology, drawn 
from the facts of evolution, is that this 
dictum applies as much to different species 
and groups of animals and plants as to types 
within the one human species. 

All ordinary people would agree that there 
are certain qualities which it is desirable for 
the race to possess. Among desirable quali- 
ties we should all put health and energy, 
physical and mental ; special aptitudes, for 
music or mathematics, practical engineering 
or administrative genius, poetry or leader- 
ship ; all-round qualities, such as general 
ability, perseverance, manual dexterity, 
humour, adaptability ; and do not let us 
forget beauty. It is possible, and indeed 
probable, that certain desirable qualities in 
an individual exclude others : in any case, no 
one in his senses would set out to breed a race 
of supermen who should all combine the 
good qualities of, say, Keats, Henry Ford, 
Buddha, Abraham Lincoln, Adonis and Sir 
Isaac Newton. The task is a simpler one to 
encourage the breeding of those with desir- 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

able qualities, even if they also possess defects 
in other qualities. It will be time enough 
after a thousand or ten thousand years of this 
to look into further questions, such as the 
precise proportion of poets, physicists and 
politicians required in a community, or the 
combination of a number of different desir- 
able qualities in one human frame. 

It is perfectly true that it is at the moment 
very difficult to envisage methods for putting 
even this limited constructive programme 
into effect. But this is due as much to 
difficulties inherent in our present social- 
economic organization as to our ignorance 
of human heredity, and most of all to the 
absence of a eugenic sense in the public at 
large. 

A change in public opinion is indeed the 
first requisite. Dean Inge, in a recent essay, 
asserted that once a man has grasped the 
implications of biology in respect of evolu- 
tion and inheritance, eugenics becomes for 
him not merely an important aim, but the 
most sacred ideal of the human race as a race. 
It becomes not merely an outlet for human 

118 



MAN AND HIS HEREDITY 

altruism, but the outlet which is most com- 
prehensive and of longest range of all outlets 
for altruism. It becomes, in fact, in Dean 
Inge's words, one of the supreme religious 
duties. 

It is this attitude which we want to see grow 
and spread among civilized men and women, 
of every profession and of every class. Man 
has become what he is by a process of evolu- 
tion which has taken perhaps a thousand 
million years ; there is no reason why that 
evolution should not continue ; and we can 
look forward, according to the astronomers, 
to at least another thousand million years of 
earth's habitability. If the past with its crude 
methods has taken life from single cells, or 
whatever simpler units it at first inhabited, to 
man, what may not man do in the future 
with the aid of conscious reason and de- 
liberate planning ? 

Once that attitude has been assimilated, 
the idea of eugenics will take its proper place 
in our repertory of ideas. On its negative 
side, it becomes racial preventive medicine : 
on its positive side, racial hope. 

119 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

And once this is so, the pressure of public 
opinion to get something done will become 
so great that something will be done. More 
minds will be set to amass the necessary 
knowledge, more will be detailed to think 
out ways and means of applying knowledge. 
We cannot yet see what those discoveries will 
be, or envisage the organization of a eugenic 
society. But knowledge will slowly grow, 
ways and means can surely be found. And 
so man may take up his birthright, which is 
to become the first organism exercising con- 
scious control over its own evolutionary 
destiny. 



120 



CHAPTER IV 

The Conflict between Science 
and Human Nature 

r T 1 HE rapid increase of scientific know- 
-JL ledge and the spread of the scientific 
spirit are in large part responsible for the 
strange and multiple chaos of the_thought 
of Western countries to-day: This effect of 
science" is often considered to be purely dis- 
integrative. By sapping traditional systems, 
we are told, without putting anything ade- 
quate in their place, it has brought about 
this confusion. But, although this is in its 
measure true, it is far from being the whole 
truth. The chaos and confusion is largely 
due to the peculiar double-edged effect 
which scientific advance has had upon many 
of the pivots of our thought. Giving with 
one hand, she has taken away with the other. 



abstract truth, she has.jpfteQ, pro- 
duced practical contradiction. 

121 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

One of the most obvious of the effects of 
science has been to confer upon man enor- 
mously enhanced power In dealing with the 
universe around him, and to hold out the 
prospect of a steady increase in this power. 
But, at the same moment, it has robbed him 
of his proud conviction of being the hero of 
the cosmic play, has deposed him from his 
seat in the centre of the universe, and rele- 
gated him to the position of an insignificant 
parasite produced by one of the satellites of 
one of millions of stars in one of millions of 
galaxies. 

Advancing science has had an equally con- 
tradictory effect upon the religious outlook. 
By showing the baselessness of traditional 
theologies, it seemed at one time to be giving 
religion itself a mortal blow. But, when we 
come to look deeper, we find the unescapable 
fact of religious expenenc^wKicITltio scfen- 
tific analysis caiTrernove. Thus, by forcing 
reTIgiBiKthT5ught to^Sistmguish between theo- 
logical scaffolding and religious core, science 
h^s jictually encouraged the growth of a truer 
and more purely religious spirit. To put it 

122 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

in another way, if science has robbed religion 
of many of its certitudes, those certitudes 
were in a sphere improper to religion. 
True religious certitude is not in the realm 
of intellect at all, but concerns values and 
a special attitude towards them. Science 
has evicted religion from the universal but 
uneasy throne she occupied in the Middle 
Ages, but she has helped her to ascerid 
her true and permanent throne of spirit- 
ual experience. After overthrowing super- 
nalufalism,~ science is confronted with 
humanism. ~~ 

~(ocience, again, has made the human mind 
feel insecure by her insistence, in various 
fields, upon the notion of relativity. But if 
she has helped in the destruction ot r "absol- 
utist security, she has, through the idea of 
evolution, greatly stabilized thought by 
giving humanity a direction. And again, if 
biological studies have emphasized the in- 
completeness and in certain respects the 
unreality of any hard-and-fast conception of 
individuality, they have equally served as the 
charter of the individual as against the state 

123 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

or race or any organization of higher order, 
by insisting that the well-developed human 
or all his limiFa'tioris^ is the 



highest product^pf evolution. 

The multiple contradictions sum up along 
these lines that in the sphere of control over 
environment and destiny, man is through 
science being given fabulous and undreamt- 
of powers, yet is by no means agreed as to 
how to employ them. And that in the sphere 
of thought, while the scientific picture of the 
universe, in which naturalism and deter- 
minism rule^grows ever more triumphant 
an3~~complete, yet it becomes ever more 
sharply set off from the world of values in 
which the human spirit inevitably habits 
being. Science, in a word, both in the outer 
and the inner life, has come up against 
human nature, and each one seems in a 
strange confused way to be barring the 
progress of the other. 

Science and human nature there lies the 
chief unresolved antinomy of the present 
stage of our civilization. Every age has its 
own antinomies. That between Naturaland 

124 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

Supernatural is one, that between Human 
and Divine another ; and there are the 
antinomies of mind and matter, individual 
and society, body and soul, magic and 
ordinary/ practice, and so on, each of which 
in its own time and place is or has divided 
thought. All such antinomies, however 
theoretical in their origin, can be of vital 
practical importance. To take but one, did 
not the Divine Right of Kings play an im- 
portant political part ? Was not the use of 
anaesthetics in childbirth reprehended as 
contrary to the will of God, and is not the 
same argument often used to-day against 
methods of birth-control and of eugenic 
sterilization ? 

But equally all such antinomies prove in 
the long run to be false or incomplete, the 
conflict between their two members by no 
means irreconcilable. In general, they arise 
from treating incomplete or slightly inac- 
curate premises as if they were final and 
accurate, and then pushing them to their 
logical conclusion ; or from taking two par- 
tial views of reality, setting them up as com- 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

plete and total, and then being surprised 
that they come into conflict. 

It may be that reality is essentially un- 
reasonable, truly disparate with itself, full of 
irreconcilable elements. Most of us, how- 
ever, have a conviction that it is not ; and 
even if, in ultimate analysis, this conviction 
seems to be more in the nature of faith than 
reasoned judgment, yet it must be said that 
the short history of human thought supports 
it. The increase of knowledge and of intel- 
lectual effort in analysis has repeatedly 
shown that conflicts can be avoided by a 
proper ddimitation of function, and that 
apparent contradictions^carr]Ee and are 
reconciled in aVhigher unity, 5 a broader 
synthesis. 

When I spoke of the antinomy between 
science and human nature, I was using the 
word science loosely. I meant, of course, not 
that activity of human nature which pro- 
duces scientific knowledge, but the fruits of 
it the potentialities of control which it opens 
up, the picture of the universe which it pro- 
vides. From our present point of view, the 

126 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

salient feature of the scientific picture of the 
universe is its neutrality in face of all the 
issues which to us as full human beings are so 
vital. Looked at objectively, the writ of our 
purely human values is seen to run over a 
negligible fraction of space and time : and of 
other values or purposes at work in the 
general, operations of the universe, science 
can detect no trace, nor does she find any 
need to postulate them. Because these values 
are missing, there is a real and to many 
people alarming contrast between the cold 
scientific outlook and the immediacy and 
warmth of human knowledge and feeling, 
between the picture of the universe as an 
immense electronic dance-hall, in which an 
interminable succession of meaningless figures 
are executed, and the measuring-rod of 
human nature, with its scale of values, its 
demand for meaning in existence, its desires 
and aspirations and purposes. 

But let us get to closer quarters with our 
problem ; and, first, with science and her 
place in our affairs. Science has two mairji 
functions in civilization! One is to give man 

127 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

a picture of the world of phenomena^ the 
most accurate and complete picture possible. 
The otEeFls" to provic^ means 

iis environment and his 



^ 

destiny-, Without the one, he can have no 
true orientation for his thought, no true con- 
ception of his place in the scheme of things, 
and so no proper programme for his aims. 
Without the other, he cannot maintain 
material progress, cannot achieve enduring 
organization, and so cannot compass the 
realization of whatever aims he may cherish. 
But if he demands this help of science, then 
he must give her every possible assistance in 
all her legitimate fields and avocations, and 
must do his best to root out other systems of 
thought that are hostile to her. As an 
example, let us take magic by which, of 
course, I do not solely mean professional 
witchcraft or organized mumbo-jumbo,Jbut 

belief in JX5lEl2H5 owers _ j n ^ influences 
which are active for good or evil in the 
material world aroundjus, and can bd con- 
Trolled, ^r^atleast propitiated^ by jtnethojs 

^rngJ^yedM^ 

128 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

Magic in this sense is still to be found among 
a surprisingly large proportion of our human 
species whether in the guise of the ordeals 
or divinations practised by African tribes, 
tKe processions to stop lava-flows or the 
prayers for rain still found in Christian coun- 
tries; the refusals of civilized white men to 
light three cigarettes from one match or to 
sail on a Friday, or, among savages, the 
sacrifice of animals to promote the fertility 
of crops, or the eating of this or that flesh to 
ensure this or that quality in the eater. %X 
Monsieur Allier has attempted to show in 
an interesting book, The Mind of the Savage, 
that it is the preponderance of belief in magic 
over belief in scientific naturalism which is 
the one great reason for the backward con- 
dition of so-called primitive peoples. Un- 
doubtedly there is a great deal of truth in 
this contention. To it I would, however, add; 
a second cause the spreading over of reli-^ 
gious emotion in a crude unselfcritical form 
into affairs where it has no business to 
meddle, with the consequent growth of ir- 
rational but powerful prohibitions and 

129 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

observances binding society in unreasoning 
conservatism. 

The sense of sacredness is one of the main 
psychological springs of religion. But in 
origin the sacred is not necessarily all good. 
For one thing, as many anthropologists have 
pointed out, the animistic savage naturally 
finds ' bad-sacredness ' as well as c good- 
sacredness 5 in the welter of influences around 
him. For another, the element of fear which, 
albeit transmuted, new-combined, and 
sublimated, still enters into reverence or 
awe or any other emotion of man con- 
fronted with what he feels to be sacred, is 
inevitably more powerful in the dark un- 
comprehended world around the savage. 
Thus there grows up an irrational but po- 
tent fear of meddling, save by due magico- 
religious means, with anything to which 
sanctity adheres. And as the savage's un- 
critical religiosity comes to attach sanctity to 
a great many elements of his life, he speedily 
becomes entangled in a web of his own 
spinning, which, for all that it is invisible, 
is so charged with irrational emotion as 

130 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

to keep him tightly imprisoned within its 
strands. 

This has two morals to our present purpose. 
In the first place, we must combat the idea of 
magic wherever it lifts its head, in however 
up-to-date a guise it may appear. There is a 
real danger that the discoveries of science 
may become incomprehensible to the multi- 
tude. If so, they themselves may become in- 
vested with this very quality of magic that 
science, in making her discoveries, had to 
abjure. Witness the numerous quacks who 
trade on the supposedly mysterio-magical 
qualities of * Electricity,' or the cranks who 
think they have evolved a complete theory of 
the universe by juggling with scientific terms 
like energy or magnetism, electron or rela- 
tivity, which they have never properly 
grasped in their scientific bearing, but which 
they have proceeded to invest with quite un- 
scientific qualities of essentially magic nature. 
Not only that, but if the discoveries of science 
are not understood, if they are regarded as so 
many incomprehensible but useful bags of 
tricks instead of various outcomes of the one 

131 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

fundamental and simple scientific method of 
work, the magic idea can play unchecked 
over other aspects of life. Only a few years 
back, it will be remembered, a Frenchwoman 
in Bordeaux succeeded in persuading a num- 
ber of perfectly ordinary people among her 
bourgeois acquaintance that she was being 
bewitched by a certain priest, the Cure of 
Bourbon, and persuaded them so thoroughly 
that they assaulted him in his own sacristy, 
and beat him violently. Yet these people 
were living in one of the countries of the 
world in which science has had most to say. 
Thejpnly way to dissipate this attitude of 
mind is by education. Every child must be 
taught~something about science. And the 

must not be a mere 



collection of facts__and_ laws, ^imposed from 
without, unintelligibly, like ajoew Decalogue. 
With such treatment, the spirit of science 
escapes : and the spirit of science is as im- 
portant to the proper understanding of the 
facts of science as it was to their original 
discovery. Much of the spirit of science is 
best brought home to the child's mind by 

132 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

some account of scientific history. The story 
of Galileo confounding authority by his 
famous but simple weight-dropping experi- 
ment, and all the consequences, in the shape 
of scientific mechanics, which flowed from it : 
how the early anatomists persisted in satisfy- 
ing their thirst for knowledge, in spite of 
ecclesiastical prohibitions on dissection : the 
gradual way in which science arrives at her 
results, even without opposition from out- 
side, as shown, for instance, in the growth 
of our /ideas about such everyday affairs 
as combustion or respiration, or the more 
abstruse ideas of the atomic nature of 
matter or the conservation of energy : the 
Middle Ages' ignorance of the very idea 
of a gas, of the fact that the heart pumps 
the blood round the body, or thajjjie.xhild 



substance detached 




parents in these and a hundred other ways 
a realization can be built up of the slow in- 
vasion of science into fields where previously 
blank ignorance or misconception had been 
masters. If religious bodies should set them- 

K 133 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

selves up to oppose such a treatment of 
science in schools, they will be mistaking 
their rightful sphere, and their opposition 
must at all costs be overcome. 

In this historical treatment of scientific 
discovery, I see not merely one of the best 
ways of revealing the true essence of scien- 
tific method, but also a corrective to possible 
narrowness and dogmatism on the part of 
scientific specialists, a useful bridge between 
the scientific and the humanist sides of the 
school curriculum.^ 

But we can be and should be going on 
throughout life with the business of learning ; 
and adult education is as important as school 
education.) In the United States a beginning 
has been made with a Science News Service 
for the popular Press. Such a service could 
play a great part ; and if something similar 
were organized for the wireless, its usefulness 
would be still further extended. Men of 
science, in any case, cannot expect to have 
their results understood and appreciated 
unless they take some trouble to make them 
known and explain them to the uninitiated. 

134 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

Our second moral is even more important. 
We must dp our best to extend the use of 
scientific method into any and every field 
where it can be of use that is to say, into! 
every "field in which we hope to exert 
reasoned control ; and we must make this 
effort in spite of sanctities and susceptibilities. 
An obvious example is that of human popu- 
lation, its quantity and its quality. It is a 
matter of elementary arithmetic that popula- 
tion-increase cannot go on indefinitely. Of 
course, food-shortage and general discomfort 
will eventually bring about an equilibrium : 
but will not any such automatically arrived- 
at final state of population be overcrowded, 
poverty-stricken, and execrably uncomfort- 
able compared with one kept deliberately at 
a lower but more orderly level ? / 

It is equally a matter of simple arithmetic' 
that, if different stocks multiply at different 
rates, the proportions of them which are m 
existence will alter, generation by genera- 
tion. At present, for instance, Russians 
are multiplying much faster than English- 
men, while English miners are multiplying 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

faster than English textile workers. There is 
also considerable evidence that, in civilized 
nations, the considerable body of people who 
are on the borderline between normal and 
definitely subnormal intelligence, are multi- 
plying faster than the population as a whole. 
At the moment, confronted with such facts 
and fears, we do nothing. One of the chief 
reasons we do nothing is that love, marriage, 
the family, the act of reproduction all of 
them intertwined with this business of popu- 
lation are so emotionally charged, so im- 
pregnated with sanctities of one sort or 
another, that any attempt at scientific and 
therefore dispassionate study of the problems 
they raise is felt by many people as sacri- 
legious, any attempt to control them as 
unnatural. 

In passing, the feeling which a very large 
number of people have about the act of 
reproduction itself affords a very good 
example of sacredness that is on the whole 
* bacl-sacredness. 3 When people atteinpt to 
convert it into c good-sacredness, 9 as did 
William Blake (not to mention examples 

136 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

nearer home), they are usually branded as 
immoral. It is worth recalling that, in 
earlier times, similar religious objections were 
felt to the mere taking of a census as when 
David felt he had c sinned greatly 5 in num- 
bering Israel (2 Sam. xxiv.). Different 
sanctities were here involved ; and we to- 
day can see how baseless they were. 
( But our scientific humanism adopts as its 
guiding principle that we can consider every- 
thing in a scientific aspect, and that while 
doing so we must make every effort to rid 
ourselves of disturbing emotion.) If we do 
succeed in discounting this powerful feeling 
about our reproductive functions a feeling 
which, though unorganized, is identical in 
nature with much that we find organized in 
the religions of savages the scales drop from 
our eyes and we see that, for instance, birth- 
control is no more * unnatural 5 than wearing 
a top-hat, the regulation of human numbers 
and quality for the greater happiness ^and 
well-being of the race no more sacrilegious 
than the provision of proper water-supply 
or good education. \ 

137 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

The dangers of the opposition between 
science and humanism are many and obvious. 
The chief and central one is that scientific 
and humanist thought, failing to compre- 
hend or sympathize with one another, shall 
organize themselves into two separate or even 
antagonistic streams, so that civilization shall 
be two-minded, in large part divided against 
itself, instead of single-minded, with a 
common main purpose and idea underlying 
all variety of minor difference. I Every type 
of mind, if untempered by proper self- 
criticism, tends to retract into its own special 
narrowness.) The vices of the scientific mind 
are intellectualism and lack of appreciation 
of the value of other kinds of experience, 
over-emphasis on doing and under-emphasis 
on being and feeling?) The vices into which 
the humanistic mind tends to slip are con- 
tempt for the slow-but-sure methods of in- 
duction and experiment, acquiescent ignor- 
ance of the facts and laws of nature, belief in 
illusory short cuts to achievement. 

A scientific humanism, in which science 
and human nature, natural law and spiritual 

1*8 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

activity, are not opposed but united, is needed 
toumFy the two opposing currents and re- 
solve the antinomy. What do we mean by 
such an attitude of mind, and how can it be 
achieved ? To attempt some answer to these 

'111 '-4 T'^ 5 ''-<<^ ';.> 

questions will be my mam purpose. ^^^ ^ 
Vln the first place, it demands that we take a 
unitary view of the universe.) The universe is 
not divisible into regions or compartments 
labelled natural and supernatural, material 
and spiritual^ scientific and non-scientific, 
and so forth, as the surface of the globe is 
divisible into land and water. Either such 
labelling is a mere convenience for the mind, 
and gives names to two rather different parts 
of a single continuum ; or it emphasizes 
different aspects of the single reality ; or, 
finally, it is the result of investigating reality 
by different methods. 

There are not two regions of reality, one of 
which is accessible to scientific method and 
the other inaccessible. Rather there is a 
single reality, but scientific and other ways 
of approaching it and treating it. Man's 
poems and religions, his values and hopes, 

139 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

are part of this single reality just as much as 
are the chemical elements or the geological 
strata. Do not let us forget that all we 
can be directly aware of is experience an 
interacting of our mind with outer events); 
everything else is construction or abstraction^ 
The very separation of experience into what 
is experienced and what experiences is an 
abstraction, and we reach further degrees of 
abstraction according to the way in which we 
sort and analyse our experience. ( Science Js 
tjieresultj^ attack 

upon reality intone particular or restricted 
way ; religion jthe resul^jDf^oncentrating it 
in a seconcL_andLjdifferent way ; art that of 
concentrating it in yet a third way ; mathe- 
matics and philosophy in still other ways. 

According to the restriction of attitude and 
approach, so will each activity have its par- 
ticular restriction of usefulness. This is most 
oE^ousIyleen with mathematics. Very few 
peopIeTare concerned about a conflict be- 
tween mathematics and religion, because 
mathematics has so obviously restricted its 
field that it fails to overlap appreciably 

140 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

with the field picked out by the religious 
approach. ^^ , ^ f jtw*><*> ':& *.&* ^ 3 

This has not been so clear with regard to 
science and religion. In the beginning this 
was due to a failure of the religious approach 
to realize its restrictions, with the result that 
it trespassed and poached, annexed fields not 
its own, and then, feeling that possession was 
nine points of the law, strenuously objected 
to relinquishing them when the true claimant 
appeared. Of late years, science has/often 
shown a similar failure to recognize her own 
limitations. She has attempted to treat reli- 
gious experience as a meaningless or even a 
pathological phenomenon, or has asserted 
that the scientific attitude can simply be 
substituted for the religious. But, recently, 
there has been a determined attempt at 
delimitation of scientific and religious func- 
tion by men such as Broad and Whitehead 
and Eddington. I The possibility of orderly 
co-operation between science and religion 
now exists, although it is too much to expect 
of human nature to hope that spiritual 
Chauvinism, whether religious or scientific, 

I4.I 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

will not long continue to overstep the pre- 
scribed boundaries and to provoke opponents^ 
1 1 Religion is concerned with a complex 
pmotional attitude of the human personality 
towards the universe as it impinges upon him. 
There is always the attempt to grasp this 
impinging reality as a single whole and to 
react to it with a movement of the whole 
inner being ; although the imperfections of 
knowledge and of thought almost always 
keep these unities from being fully realized. 
The religious attitude of inner towards outer 
involves a specific emotional attitude, into 
which the feeling of sacredness or holiness 
always enters, even if sometimes in debased 
or rudimentary form ; and it involves value. 
\ Science, on the other hand, deliberately 
rejects emotion and values both from her 
attitude and her method] Her sole aim is 
intellectual, her sole method statistical, com- 
parative, or metrical. She can discuss values, 
but only objectively ; she can herself experi- 
ence none, save the value of truth) No 
emotion and no sanctity must stand in the 
way of her investigations ; and she cannot be 

IA2 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

successful unless. she,d$ dispassionate^ She 
exhibits the curious and instructive paradox 
that only by suspending judgment does she 
arrive at truer judgment, only by banishing 
the driving force of emotion and the false 
certitude of the will-to-believe from her 
methods does she arrive at greater power ancj 
greater certitude. 

Religion must recognize that theology is 
not religion but science and, in all its ortho- 
doxforms, extremejyjgoor^ science at that. 
AnH^science must recognize that Awhile for 
solfne aspects of the business/of^ living, the 
scientific* approach is best, for others the 
religious approach is more important. Need- 
ham in his recenFbook, The Sceptical Biologist}, 
epigrammaticaliy sums" up the position by 
pointing out that we have just as much right 
and just as much reason to ask whether the 
spiritual life is any obstacle to materialism, 
as the more usual question whether mate* 
rialism is any obstacle to the spiritual life. - 

The scientific and the religious approaches 
to experience are different functions of the 
human spirit. The dangerous opposition 

143 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

between them comes when over-specializa- 
tion produces a whole class of individuals 
with scientific hypertrophy and religious 
atrophy, another class with scientific atrophy 
and religious hypertrophy. This is an attempt 
to follow the methods of the bees and ants ; 
in their unintelligent societies, in which tra- 
dition and education play no part, it is the 
only metliod available. But human society 
is built up on quite other lines. Man is the 
only social organism whose individuals can 
be both specialized and generalized at once, 
and can develop hypertrophically in regard 
to one faculty without corresponding atrophy 
of others. And since mutual understandings 
and a common tradition constitute the basis 
of human progress, iFis thereiore extremely 
important that any machine-like or ant-like 
specialization should be avoided, for this 
inevitably prevents mutual understanding 
and destroys the unity of the social tradition. 
^ Science, as a body of knowledge and prin- 
ciple, is essentially a means.N She is a direc- 
tion-post ; and she provides the only waj^of 
achieving distant and elaborate ends. But, 

144 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

as we all know well, she can be used to com- 
pass any ends, of destruction as of construc- 
tion, ofselfish gain as of communal bejiefit. 
It isjhuman jgature whigh dictates ends for 
which sqience must 



Science, as I say, can provide human nature 
with maps and direction-posts, by Jielping 
man jjumi^jsland_Minsjdf ancL by showing 
more^jch^arl^ 

In tKeTIast fifty" or sixty years, for instance, 
evolutionary science has provided new ends, 
new outlets for human nature, by demon- 
strating the universal/pliability of organisms 
under selection, by opening up astounding 
vistas of future time before our race, and so 
by holding out the vision of human progress 
from our present chaotic state, as a goal for 
action. 

\ But its action is only demqustradve. It 
cafl. show us gpals, but not impel u^ towards 
he s^prings of action lie elsewhere. 
en we come to action we are in a realm 
whoIKTHitterent Tf om that of science. V Foil 

-~ -y, : - '- ________ '.:_- __ '_'.'- ___ _ __ IIZ^ZZLIll, "_,'" .'.. ,.,.. JL .. .V- ^_j;"'> 

a ti2!L-Jt^^ 

motive_is^always partJeelingA The activity! 

145 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

of human nature has its being in and through 
that scale of values which science by her 
very method banishes from herself. 

In so far as science is human activity and 
not the outcome of that activity, it too, of 
course, owes its existence to motive and is 
bound up with value. Human nature is 
curious, it wants to know things and to get 
at the truth, it values knowledge both for the 
pure pleasure of knowing and for the power 
which it brings, If this were not so, our 
laboratories would not be full of scientific 
workers ; for the material recompenses of a 
scientific career are not comparable with 
those open to the professional or the business 
man. But we are talking of science as the 
body of knowledge and the power of control 
gained by scientific activity ; and these, we 
repeat, are in themselves neutral, uncharged 
with emotion, untroubled by ideas of value. 

Then, while science is a body of rules and 
laws, humanism is an affairnot ofTules (or 
rather, not merely of rules) but of uniques 
unique things, unique events. And these 
uniques have each their value. Every work 

146 



SCIENCE AND HUMAN NATURE 

of art, for instance, whether poem or picture, 
a building or a piece of music, is first and 
foremost itself., or it is nothing. It says some- 
thing on its own account ; what it says may 
be something general, but it says it in its own 
new and individual way. If it does not do 
this, it ceases to be a real work of art, and, 
artistically speaking, tells you nothing you 
want to know. It obviously has to obey cer- 
tain rules (as a poem to scan, a building to 
stand up, and so on), but it is much more 
than its rules. 

Human beings are all up to a point alike, 
but they are also all unique, both in their 
constitution and in the circumstances of their 
lives. ^History repeats itself; but never 
exactly.) 

Scientific laws on the other hand are essen- 
tially statistical laws : they deal with the 
resultants of the action of huge numbers of 
separate objects, or with the averages of 
enormous sequences of events. 

Humanism in its various aspects is always 
concerned with the value of the particular. 
The rules of painting have no aesthetic value, 

147 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

but each picture has its own unique value. 
A wife is not just any woman, a friend not 

... - , ,....,',- -,,..,, ,/..,. ,>...- - 'V 

just any man. ^A moral act is a particular 
resultant in particular circumstances^) \the 
value which knowledge has in and for itself 
is the value of individual illumination) 

The only way in which the conflict between 
science and human nature can be ended is by 
combining science and the other fruits of the 
human spirit in a new alliance, a new atti- 
tude, to which we may give the name of 
Scientific Humanism. But to deal with the 
implications of this new alignment will need 
a fresh chapter. 



148 



CHAPTER V 
Scientific Humanism 

r I ^HE conflict between science and human 
A nature can only be reconciled in an 
attitude and a temper of mind which may 
fittingly be called scientific humanism. In 
the present chapter I shall try to set out 
some of the implications of this attitude. 

To begin with, we must enquire a little 
more deeply into what we mean by human- 
ism, what we think to be its aims, what its 
scale of values. One sentence, to my mind, 
really contains them all to have life, and 
tojiaye it more abundantly) Although, like 
all one-sentence programmes, this needs 
amplification and definition, it proclaims at 
the outset the humanist's main creed : that 
the sole source of values which we know of 
in the universe is the commerce between 
mind and matter that we call human life; 

L '49 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

for it generates not only our standard of 
values, but the experiences, objects and ideas 
which are of highest concrete value in them- 
selves :) (that life as a whole is more im- 
portant than any single part or product of 
life : j and that, since life, however complex, 
is essentially one, it is false to give absolute 
predominance to any system of ideas or 
conduct, or indeed to any one aspect of life. 
A Humanism that is also scientific sees 
man endowed with infinite powers of control 
should he care to exercise them. More im- 
portantly, in the perspective of scientific 
knowledge, it sees man against his true back- 
ground a background of the irresponsible 
matter and energy of which he is himself 
composed, of the long and blind evolution 
of which he is himself a product. Humanity 
thus appears as a very peculiar phenomenon 
-j-a fraction of the universal world-stuff 
which, as result of long processes of change 
and strife, has been made conscious of itself 
and of its relations with the rest of the world- 
stuff, capable of desiring, feeling, judging 
and planning.^ It is an experiment of the 
150 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

universe in rational self-consciousness. (So 
far as we are yet aware, it is the only such 
experiment ; but that is a matter of minor 
importance.) Any value which it has, apart 
from its selfish value to itself, resides in this 
fact. 

The apprehension of values depends upon 
a balancing of motives and ideas ; a stan- 
dard of values demands conceptual thought. 
Even the highest animals have only the 
barest rudiment of such possibilities. But 
once man, by the aid of language, could 
think abstract thoughts, a new framework 
was generated, a framework as important to 
mental life as the skeletal framework to 
bodily life the framework of universals and 
ideals. This is an immediate by-product of 
language and logic. It is impossible to 
pronounce the simplest judgment c this is 
true ' or c that is not true ' without implicitly 
setting up a category of abstract truth. Once 
you can argue whether an action is right or 
wrong, you presuppose an ideal of rightness. 
You may not consciously envisage such 
ideals, but your own or others' logic will 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

sooner or later lead you to them. The 
humanist sees no other absolute quality Jn 
truth or goodness than this. It is a similar 
absoluteness that inheres in mathematical 
reasoning. Once you have the power of in- 
venting numbers and abstracting the idea of 
number from other qualities, you can go on 
to the mathematics of imaginary quantities 
or fictitious dimensions. 

The actual way in which these abstract 
ideas- are applied as standards of value is sub- 
ject to change. The ideas about truth held 
by a believer in verbal inspiration must be 
different from those of one trained in the 
methods of philosophy or of mathematical 
physics. Just as the bodily skeleton was 
moulded and improved during the course of 
its evolution, so this spiritual framework grows 
and is modified during human history. 

The different emphasis laid upon this 
world and the next, for instance, has pro- 
duced very different measuring-rods for 
Goodness in the minds of the mediaeval 
theologian and the modern social worker. 
Again, many religious minds have found 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

acceptance of a fixed creed the highest good, 
because they believe it the only avenue to 
salvation. To the evolutionist, who knows 
the variety but incompleteness of life, and 
the necessity for change, this good turns to 
bad. 

These universals are but frameworks. 
To revert to our metaphor, they resemble 
the archetypal plans of construction of this 
or that animal organ which have no concrete 
existence (save in the pages of zoological 
text-books), but yet underlie and in part 
determine the construction of every actual 
organ. The archetypal plan of vertebrate 
skeleton could be pinched and pulled to 
support a flying or a swimming or a running 
creature. The framework of our abstract 
and universal ideas can be practically 
moulded in a not dissimilar adaptive way. 

In the course of its evolution, human life 
comes to generate newj^^ 
oTTrvrng and of expression, ^ which are con- 
creiH)Mof valueT in themselves ; in this way 
new^cpiialities and alsdltiew J^igl^tsjpflyaluc 
are attained. Stoicism was the means of 

153 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

giving the world a new type of character. 
Dante's Vita Nuova was the expression of a 
new way of love between man and woman 
which in previous ages had not been possible. 
The transference of the sense of supreme 
sacredness from fear to love, accomplished 
by Jesus, led man to wholly new levels of re- 
ligious value. Kfure ^knowledge has absolute 
value : and in the intellectual comprehen- 
sion of the world about us given by Newton, 
by Darwin, or by the latest discoveries in 
astrophysics, science has produced some- 
thing new and valuable.V Beethoven, in his 
posthumous quartets and other late works, 
produced something wholly new in the world. 
It is not new knowledge of the external world, 
as Mr Sullivan in his Beethoven would wish 
us to believe, buVTcnOT^dedge of new capa- 
bilities of the human spirit new experience. 
In all such cases, of course, others may not 
be capable of appreciating the new-found 
value, may not wish to employ it. But the 
value has been created ; it is there, waiting 
to be used. 

One of the functions of humanity in its^ 

> 

154 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

evolutionary experiment is thus, it seems, the 
creating of new experiences of value, in any 
and every realm, from character to pure 
intellect, from religion to art. ^ 

As a matter of history, the course of events 
in this progressive change of framework and 
progressive realization of new value has so 
far been rather a curious one. At the risk of 
over-simplification, I may put it thus. In 
primitive man, and in many of the unedu- 
cated to-day, different values are not much 
thought about or analysed, but just ac- 
cepted. Each separate activity as it happens 
to come along is instinctively valued for its 
immediate satisfaction. Further, since the 
value of many later and more complex human 
experiences cannot be felt by a mind which 
is not trained or not set in a certain direction 
(I do not suppose you could ever get a Masai 
warrior to see that there was c anything in ' 
the Vita Nuova ; any more than a wholly 
untrained mind could be thrilled by reading 
the latest cosmogony by Jeans or Eddington), 
the experiences regarded as valuable are 
themselves more primitive. 

155 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

A large part of early man's values must 
have been concerned with physiological 
satisfaction, his life a series of activities only 
very partially related in thought, his various 
mental activities existing in more or less 
c thought-tight ' compartments. But just 
because he was not too logical, and because 
he was endowed with a variety of instinctive 
impulses, his life, though on a low level, was 
full and varied. 

Man's intellectual faculties, hovering pro- 
tectively over his naked feelings and desires, 
have doubtless always done something to 
cloak them with the respectability of Reason 
or, at least, of reasons. But in the begin- 
nings of society this rationalizing power 
must have been very incomplete and un- 
co-ordinated. With settled civilization, the 
reflective mind had new leisure and new 
opportunities. The result was apparent in 
the various theological and philosophical 
schemes aiming at some degree of logic and 
completeness, which have characterized the 
last three or four thousand years. 

It was as if the human spirit, growing more 

156 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

fully conscious of itself, its needs and its 
defects, its strange isolation in an incompre- 
hensible and often hostile world, felt the 
imperative need of some support, some 
framework of authority outside the indi- 
vidual and, if possible, outside the species, 
some relief from vague fears and speculations 
by means of clear-cut explanations. 

In passing, it is not only in the matter of 
abstract frameworks or rationalizing explana- 
tions that this demand for external sanctions 
showed itself. For instance, as Pierre Janet 
has pointed out, the insistence on oaths which 
characterized the mediaeval period was an 
attempt to buttress up the sense of truth and 
honesty, which ought to have an inner 
sacredncss of its own, with purely external 
sanctities. The excessive use of vows, in the 
same way, is an attempt to screw external 
sanctions on to our own infirm purpose ; it is 
interesting to find that this falling back upon 
vows, combined with over-scrupulosity, is a 
frequent symptom of certain kinds of neurotic 
disease. 

The support may have been needful ; but 

157 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

it was in danger of becoming a prison. 
Abstract thought can be so devastating just 
because it is general, because of its apparent 
absoluteness. There is no gainsaying logic. 
Once you cease to have the saving grace of 
humility, and believe that you possess any 
final or definitive knowledge of the nature of 
things, whether off your own bat or con- 
ferred by external grace of revelation, you 
are doomed if you make the appeal to logic. 
Your premisses are bound to be incomplete ; 
and the inaccuracy, multiplied by the chain 
of levers which logic provides from particular 
to general, at the last assumes portentous 
proportions. 

If you really believed the mediaeval Chris- 
tian schemes you were bound to be in- 
tolerant, bound to persecute and establish 
inquisitions. If you really believe in the 
divine ordinance of kingship or marriage, or 
that the Decalogue was divinely ordained, 
you cannot help drawing certain practical 
conclusions which will in time put you in 
violent opposition to the humanist view on 
such subjects. 

158 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

That period of human evolution which we 
may call the period of the great theological 
religions, was from this point of view one in 
which perplexed human beings, in their 
struggle with the outer world, with other 
human beings, and most of all with the 
tortuous inconsistencies and treacheries of 
the human spirit, found much-needed help in 
the fixity of generalized schemes of thought. 
They discovered that they could gain support 
from abstract ideas such as those of reason 
or justice ; from unattainable but absolute 
ideals, as of goodness or truth, from the un- 
assailable logic of complete schemes of crea- 
tion and salvation. The externalizing of the 
compulsive but changeable inner voice of 
impulse and conscience in outer authority 
and codes of divine revelation was another 
method of finding support, and the psycho- 
logical trickery involved in this projection of 
inner feeling into outer sanction was so simple 
and natural to untutored thinking that it 
passed unnoticed. 

But the method had its inevitable defects. 
Grateful support could become irnpercep- 

159 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

tibly converted into cramping rigidity. The 
inevitable slight pre-eminence given to this 
or that quality in the original scheme of 
thought could become magnified by logic 
into an entire one-sidedness. The general 
and abstract could be taken for the absolute 
and complete, and so the way barred to 
novelty or fresh achievements. 

In the last half-millennium there has been 
a change. Thought has not only attacked 
the rigidity of the old schemes, but has also 
devoted itself to new creation. The abso- 
luteness and externality of the old frame- 
works are gone. Scientific law, for instance, 
is no longer regarded as the transcription of 
some prodigious code laid up in heaven, but 
as the most convenient way in which our 
human intellect can sum up the controllable 
aspects of phenomena. 

'The new attack has at last invaded the 
citadel itself. No longer can we set matter 
against life ; or life against mind ; or mind 
as against spirit, as two essentially different] 
realms. 

The time is beginning to ripen in which we 

1 60 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 
can attempt to recover ajgreater elasticityjgf 



nmg~ to the jiatiu^ JD^^ _ 

of man as seen in the: light of new knowledge, 
an3^5mldjng^up our jjchemjejmew. This new 
humanism, if we attempt it, must, in the first 
place, attempt to do justice to the variety of 
human nature and refrain from giving pre- 
eminence to any one aspect a task which 
Hemands a difficult combination of altruism 
and tolerance. It must attempt to do justice 
to our incompleteness, and the constant 
change in knowledge and outlook which we 
must hope for. This demands a sacrifice 
almost intolerable to certain minds the 
sacrifice of certitude. It must finally attempt 
to provide some real and strong framework 
of support, and so prevent the exaggerated 
individualism, the social disintegration and 
the tolerance that turns to indiflferentism, 
which have characterized other humanistic 
periods such as the early Roman Empire or 
the Renaissance. 

Humanism, with the aid of the picture 
given by Science, can achieve a framework 
161 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

strong enough for support. In the light of 
evolution, she can see an unlimited possi- 
bility of human betterment. And she can 
see that possibility as a continuation of the 
long process of biological betterment that 
went before the appearance of man. If 
humanism cannot have the fixed certitude of 
dogma, it can at least have a certitude of 
direction and aim. The altruistic forces of 
human nature need not be restricted to 
isolated acts of doing good. They can har- 
ness themselves for the task, inspiring because 
of its very size, of slowly moving mankind 
along the upward evolutionary path. 

The other certitude it can lay claim to is 
the certitude of its own values. They cannot 
be disputed they are simply experienced. 
Any one who has experienced the illumina- 
tion of new knowledge, or the ecstasy of 
poetry or music, or the deliberate subordina- 
tion of self to something greater, or the self- 
abandonment of falling in love, or complete 
physical well-being, or the intense satisfaction 
of a difficult task achieved, or has had a 
mystical experience, knows that they are in 

162 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

some way valuable for their own sakes 
beyond ordinary every-day satisfactions, such 
as being more or less fit, earning one's own 
living, or filling one's belly. We must see to 
it that our pursuit of these experiences does 
not conflict with other sides of our nature, or 
with other human beings ; here, again, what 
is absolute in its own right is purely relative 
within the general scheme. But the values 
are there and are real, and there is some 
general consensus as to their scale of grading. 
The difficulty for many minds is that these 
values are of our own generating, not in any 
way endowed with external authority. But 
in the religious sphere, was it not Jesus who 
laid down once and for all that the kingdom 
of heaven is within us ? As if we abandon the 
idea of external certitude for scientific law, 
we need not worry about doing so for our 
scheme of values. 

At the present m^me^wejiave no policv 
of values such as, at least in theory, jth 



Middle Ages^gossessed. Thjyorld_is_-bi 



limited in size ; yet we permit this orthi 



--a spreading^patcfail jr 
163 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

over its surface almost without reference to 
what else it may make impossible. If there 
is one thing which is obvious it surely is that 
economic aims are not a final end in them- 
selves. To be prosperous is a prerequisite to 
innumerable other activities ; but prosperity 
is not the chief measure by which we should 
judge success. The same applies to the 
quantitative mania for which American 
cities have been famous, but from which no 
nation is really exempt the mania which 
assumes that what matters is the number of 
people in a town irrespective of their quali- 
ties or what they are doing, the amount of 
money spent on a building irrespective of its 
beauty, and so on. 

Quite recently an opponent of one of the 
bills for preventing the destruction of rural 
amenities wrote pointing out that this would 
cause certain financial losses ; as the bill 
concerned itself ' after all with merely 
aesthetic considerations/ these could not be 
justified ! 

Without any general scheme of values^jwe 
take a whole series oOITimlin needs and aims 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

in turn, pretend that each is somehow abso- 
lute, try to push it to its logical conclusion, 
and then let them fight it out. In the re- 
sultant chaos, of course, many other subtler 
values languish or are left on. one, side. The 
value of human life becomes so absolute that 
it is murder to put away a deformed monster 
at birth, and criminal to suggest euthanasia ; 
and we push on with our reduction of infant 
mortality until we save an excess of cripples 
and defectives to breed from. 

The enhanced control that is in our hands, 
and the fact that much of the world is 
actually filling up, are at last giving us pause. 
The Indian mortality rate could doubtless be 
reduced by half but what would you do 
with the increased population ? Even if you 
bring huge areas of arid Indian land under 
irrigation and cultivation, it is only a matter 
of a generation or so before the new vacant 
space will be overrun by new population on 
the same low level of prosperity, health and 
education as the old. Have you done any 
good by causing more babies to live and so 
creating greater population-pressure, or by 

M '65 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

opening up new land to be filled at once by 
the human flood ? Might it not have been 
better to have left the death side of nature's 
population-control to itself until we had 
some future policy for dealing simultaneously 
with birth, or to have kept some open spaces 
in reserve until there was some better reason 
for filling them ? At the moment most people 
do not even put such questions,{much less try 
to answer thenv 

In England itself, the tiny size of the coun- 
try has at last forced us to ask ourselves ques- 
tions of this kind. Here, again, we have let 
each partial aim be carried out without 
reference to a general policy and are sud- 
denly awakening to the fact that they are 
all cutting each other's throats. At last we 
have begun to ask what we want to live for, 
and to realize that the intangible values must 
be planned and worked for as much as the 
tangible ones, that there are people to whom 
solitude and wild nature provide some of the 
highest values in their lives, as there are 
others to whom social intercourse is the 
greatest pleasure. 

1 66 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

Humanism thus would try to plan its 
limited physical environment so that within 
it different values are balanced and do not 
conflict too disastrously. This is a fairly 
obvious step to take. But a subtler reaction 
of the humanist point of view will be its 
influence upon our equally limited individual 
lives. With the decay of rigid codes, rigid 
schemes of valuation, rigid ideas of externally 
imposed law, we need be much less the 
victims of consistency. 

There is value in logical thought ; so there 
is in mystical experience. Because, for the 
moment, we cannot intellectually grasp why 
the mystical experience is of value, we need 
not reject it, any more than we need reject 
the value of logical thought because it does 
not give the peace or sense of completion 
produced by the mystical experience. / 

Self-sacrifice and asceticism can be experi- 
enced as of the utmost value ; so can self- 
expression or the fullest satisfaction of bodily 
needs. It is very difficult, however, for some 
people to think that they or any one else can 
be genuine in deliberately practising what 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

are loosely called self-denial and self-indul- 
gence at different times. So long, however, 
as the impulse to either is genuine, both can 
be of value, and it is often only the demon of 
consistency which prevents us from achieving 
the needed genuineness of impulse. Both 
purge the soul and nourish it, though in 
different ways, and we have to accept that as 
fact, instead of trying to explain it away by 
logic. Even should we eventually choose one 
way or one activity as having supreme value 
for us, we must not deny the right of others 
to choose differently. And, also, we are not 
likely to practise our choice well unless we 
have had experience of other activities. It 
is no coincidence that many saints, like 
Augustine or Francis, began by enjoying the 
variety of life's ordinary joys to the full. 

Do not let it be supposed that I am preach- 
ing hedonism, even a spiritualized hedonism. 
Hedonism, like utilitarianism, is another of 
these paper schemes, beautifully logical, that 
just are not true. The humanists, looking 
into human nature, must acknowledge that 
effort is often its own reward, that pain may 

168 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

be essential to development, that limitation 
is frequently a prerequisite to achievement. 
He finds the desire for a sacrifice and self- 
mortification just as natural and almost as 
widespread as the desire for achievement and 
self-assertion-t-and sees that the one tendency 
is just as dangerous and unpleasant as the other 
if indulged in the wrong way. And he sees, 
looking beyond man by the light of science, 
that all these qualities have their counterpart 
in biological evolution, and all seem neces- 
sary for the advancement of the evolutionary 
experiment. ^Sacrifice and self-assertion are 
both biological necessities in their place and 
time ; without effort there could be no sur- 
vival, without pain no surmounting of harm, 
without limitation of possibility no realiza- 
tion of actual biological success) 

The difference between human and bio- 
logical affairs is that man, through his new 
powers of mind, has reached a new stage. 
From the purely biological standpoint, the 
main criteria are survival and reproduction. 
Man has entered a realm where things anc} 
experiences can have a supreme value in 

169 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

themselves without subserving any purely 
biological needs. The love immortalized in 
the Vita Nuova has been spiritualized away 
from its original connection with reproduc- 
tion. A life devoted to pure music or pure 
mathematics has no counterpart whatever 
among lower organisms. Up till now most 
of the energies of the human race have been 
devoted to the biological needs of individual 
and racial survival. But now we are at 
least able to envisage a future in which the 
control of environment provided by science 
will be so effective that only a small fraction 
of human energy need be devoted to merely 
biological ends. The rest will be free to 
satisfy itself as it wishes. One of the problems 
of the past has been to keep the sense of 
values unimpaired by disease, misery and 
grinding poverty. A serious problem of the 
future will be how to keep values unimpaired 
by superabundance of leisure. 

At the moment there are vast possibilities 

of value running to waste because they are 

not harnessed, or because they are not even 

realized. The number of subtle and iiidi- 

170 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

yidual minds that find themselves unable to 
join wholeheartedly in any corporate organi- 
zation is increasing ; they find themselves 
over-individualized, incapable of experienc- 
ing many of the values which come from 
losing self. The organizations in which the 
individual can lose himself and taste self- 
sacrifice and corporate enhancement, are for 
the most part blatantly irrational, like politi- 
cal parties, or committed to out-of-date or 
one-sided ideas like most of the churches ; 
or, like public schools, they encourage crude 
and juvenile loyalties ; or, as in the team- 
work of sport, satisfy only a limited part of 
human nature. 

One real task for humanism as I see it is 
to develop organizations which shall satisfy 
the need for corporate action and loyalty, the 
desire we all have to feel of use, and shall 
satisfy the urge to self-sacrifice as well as 
intellectual aspirations. The New Samurai 
of Wells' A Modern Utopia embodied a 
similar idea. The success they might have 
is foreshadowed by the success already 
attending such imperfect adumbrations of 

171 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

the idea as the Boy Scouts or the various 
c Youth Movements 5 in Central Europe. I 
do not think it would be impossible to build 
up a scheme of the sort in connection with 
education, though at present every one not 
already committed to organizations is too 
much ashamed of showing enthusiasm in un- 
fashionable ways to begin planning along the 
proper lines and on the proper scale. 

The fact is that no community has ever yet 
set itself seriously to the task of scientific 
humanism. No nation has really attempted 
to think out what are the valuable things in 
life and the relation between them, or to 
work out the best means of realizing these 
values in fullest intensity and proper relative 
dosage. A few individual thinkers have tried 
their hands, but until society as a whole gets 
busy with the problem, individual attempts 
will have little effect. 

Is it possible to plan a body which shall ent 
gender enthusiasm and canalize devotion 
after the fashion of a young religious order, 
but which shall not fall into the dangers of 
religious dogmatism on the one hand, and on 

172 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

the other shall not by defects in its organiza- 
tion slip into the conservatism or worldliness 
which is the usual fate of so many orders ? 

Is it possible to organize a body of opinion 
which shall combine the enthusiasm of a 
political party with the suspension of judg- 
ment of the scientific investigator ? Is it 
possible during education to give the average 
boy and girl such a taste for various values 
beauty in art, say, or beauty in nature that 
they will cherish them throughout life ? At 
present we stuff them with facts so as quite 
to ruin their taste for knowledge, and leave 
other values to look after themselves. 

It is the custom to say that modern 
psychology delights in revealing the most 
unsavoury motives to our most respectable 
actions. It was Freud himself, however, 
who said that if the average man was in some 
ways much more immoral than he suspected, 
he is in others much more moral. There is, 
in fact, a reserve of the angelic in ordinary 
people, which is unused and even unsuspected, 
because it does not fit with everyday ideas, 
because, in fact, we, most of us, are subcon- 

173 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

sciously rather apologetic about such im- 
practical and inconvenient idealisms. Is 
there a way of tapping this reserve of moral 
power without letting it loose in the form 
of irrational prejudice or wild fanaticism, 
moral, religious or patriotic ? On these and 
hundreds of similar questions we are blankly 
ignorant. We build laboratories to test out 
how we can harness and concentrate elec- 
trical and chemical and mechanical forces ; 
but the corresponding problem of harnessing 
and intensifying the latent powers and activi- 
ties of human nature we have scarcely even 
begun to envisage. 

I must bring this rambling chapter to its 
end. Scientific humanism is a protest against 
supernaturalism : the human spirit, now in 
its individual, now in its corporate aspects, is 
the source of all values and the highest reality 
we know. } It is a protest against one-sidedness 
and fixity : tjie human spirit has many sides 
and cannot be ruled by any single rule ; nor 
can it be restrained from making new dis- 
coveries in the adventure of its evolution. It 
insists that the same scientific procedure can 

174 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

be applied to human life as has been applied 
with such success to lifeless matter and to 
animals and plants scientific survey, study 
and analysis, followed by increasing prac- 
tical control. It insists on human values as 
the norms for our aims, but insists equally 
that they cannot adjust themselves in right 
perspective and emphasis except as part of 
the picture of the world provided by science. 
It realizes that human desires and aspirations! 
are the motive power of life, but insists that] 
no long-range or comprehensive aim of] 
humanity can ever be realized except with 
the aid of the pedestrian and dispassionate 
methods, the systematic planning, the experi- 
mental testing which can be provided only 
by science. 

At the moment, a particular task of scien- 
tific humanism is to clarify her own ideas as 
to the limitations of the various activities of 
the human mind. To take but three : 
Sciencejs^ajvvay o colltctm^^d handling 
experience of the controllabl_as^ect&^iif 
ph^omena. Religion is a way of experieno^ 
ing ih^jrn^act^^thG QuteiLunive.nre on the 

175 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

personality as a_whole : the universe^ jand 
human ,persjQn^lity^.bjsing j^^J^^-3^> 4Jy s 
way of experience will always involve some 
feeling^^gf .sacredness.. Art is a way of ex- 
pressing some felt experience in communi- 
cable form ; and a way which always 
involves that most difficult of things to 
define, the aesthetic emotion. Each selects 
and correlates in its own special way out of 
the common flux of experience. Each tells 
you something about reality science more 
about the external aspects of it which can 
be controlled either in thought or practice ; 
religion more about the kingdom of heaven 
that is within us ; art about the fusion of 
inner and outer in individual experiences of 
value in themselves. Each is limited in its 
scope and its bearings, but can be universally 
applied. 

In my phrase, scientific humanism, I have 
chosen to emphasize science as against all the 
other human activities for a simple reason 
that at the moment science is in danger of 
setting itself up as an external code or frame- 
work as did revealed religion in the past ; 



SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM 

and only by putting it in its rightful place in 
the humanist scheme shall we avoid this 
dangerous dualism. But if science must 
beware of trying to become a dictator, the 
other human activities must beware of the 
jealousy which would try to banish the 
upstart from their affairs. The only signifi- 
cance we can see attaching to man's plac& 
in nature is that he is willy-nilly engaged ip. 
a gigantic evolutionary experiment by which 
life may attain to new levels of achievement 
and experience. Without the impersonal 
guidance and the efficient control provided 
by science, civilization will either stagnate or 
collapse, and human nature cannot make 
progress towards realizing its possible evolu- 
tionary destiny. 



177 



CHAPTER VI 

Science, Religion and 
Human Nature 

IT remains, finally, to discuss some of the 
bearings of scientific discovery upon that 
deepest-twined and most complex part of 
man's intangible environment of thought 
and feelings his religion. When I de- 
livered the lecture upon which these two 
chapters are based, I received what I thought 
was rather more than my due share of public 
attack. It was, however, somewhat of a 
comfort that I was attacked from both sides 
attacked just as bitterly and vigorously by 
the out-and-out rationalists and free-thinkers 
as by representatives of the churches. To 
be sure, the fact of being attacked from both 
sides is no proof of excellence ; but it is at 
least some guarantee that I was not being 
so extreme as some of my orthodox oppo- 
nents appeared to imagine. And with this 

178 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

preface I will embark directly upon my 

subject. 

* ***** 

I had occasion not long ago to look up 
some of the late nineteenth-century contro- 
versies between science and religion, contro- 
versies in which the protagonists were men 
like Gladstone and my grandfather ; contro- 
versies which shook the world of thought of 
the time. And I must confess that I found 
them by no means dull, but dead. It was 
astonishing how lifeless those disputes seemed 
after only half a century. 

For the argument was largely about 
matters which seem rather unimportant to- 
day whether the Mosaic account of creation 
was literally or even symbolically accurate, 
whether Jonah was really swallowed by a 
whale, whether there was a historical Flood 
or no. The dispute was really between scien- 
tific common-sense and freedom of Jhoughi 
on the one hand and religious authoritarian- 
ism and the theory ^of verbal inspiration on 
the other. These controversies killed the 
pretensions of orthodoxy as dead as mutton ; 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

and it is no longer possible for the fight to 
take place on the same ground, the argument 
to start from the same premisses. Some- 
times, it is true, incidents like the Dayton 
evolution trial or the Prayer-book contro- 
versy remind us of the strength of antiquated 
ideas or non-rational feelings in religious 
matters ; but it is no longer possible for the 
world of thought to take such matters seri- 
ously (save as sociological phenomena) ; the 
spokesmen of religion no longer choose such 
ground on which to give battle ; arid the 
living interest of the discussion has moved to 
another sphere. 

It is interesting to speculate as to the atti- 
tude which the great nineteenth-century 
champions of freedom of thought and reli- 
gious liberalism would have taken up on the 
question if they were alive and in the fullness 
of their powers to-day. In an essay written 
for the centenary of my grandfather's birth, 
on his attitude towards religion, I wrote the 
following passage : ' He was forced by the 
intransigent attitude of Victorian orthodoxy 
first of all to think of God in orthodox terms 

1 80 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

cruder terms, in all probability, than he 
would have arrived at if he had been free to 
excogitate the problem for himself in quiet 
and on its merits ; and, secondly, to adopt 
an agnosticism which was not passive, no 
merely faineant intellectual gesture, but im- 
plied the positive immorality of attempts to 
draw conclusions from premisses which could 
not be known the immorality, therefore, of 
basing a religion on the attributes of the 
type of God with which his opponents, or 
certainly the majority of them, confronted 
him.' 

Moncure Conway I did not know person- 
ally. But from the testimony of his writings 
and of those who knew him it seems that 
he was of somewhat different tempera- 
ment from Thomas Huxley, his colleague 
in the work of liberating the religious spirit. 
He could not escape the intellectual climate 
of his age, nor the theological difficulties 
which the dead hand of orthodoxy forced on 
all those of the age who endeavoured to think 
for themselves. But his main preoccupations 
were less intellectual than ethical and prac- 

N 181 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

tical. Above all, he combined a devotion to 
religion with a rare and embracing human- 
ism. It is for that reason above all others 
that I was proud to have been chosen as one 
of the lecturers in the foundation associated 
with his name, for to my mind an enlightened 
humanism such as his is the greatest need of 
the world to-day. 

To recall such men is inspiring. But it is 
also melancholy, for they are gone and we 
have need of them. Would that such vital 
souls and piercing intellects were here with 
us to help in taking the dispute between 
science and religion a stage further towards 
adjustment ! For I confess that I see several 
dangers in the present situation. One is the 
premature attempt to cut the Gordian knot 
by means of philosophic mysticism, as exem- 
plified by Bergson and Driesch, and in more 
recent times in rather a different form by 
Whitehead and Eddington. It is not unfair, 
I think, to say that the net result of the thesis 
maintained by such writers is something like 
this : the scientific account of things ends in 
obscurity and irrationality ; let us accordn 

182 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

ingly introduce a corresponding dose of un- 
intelligibility on the philosophic and religious; 
side, and then the accounts will balance. ' 
Another very different danger comes from 
the complacently destructive attitude of many 
representatives of rationalist thought. They, 
it seems, have not realized that the real 
battle has moved elsewhere, and continue to 
fight with the camp-followers of the other 
side as if these were the main army. Half a 
century ago destruction was the prime neces- 
sity : the false claims of authority and inspi- 
rationism had to be broken down before the 
free spirit of religion could emerge. But now, 
though much minor destruction is still neces- 
sary, the prime need is construction. Con- 
struction, indeed, is busily at work, but much 
of it is ill-informed and misguided. Some 
liberals are so busy flogging the dead horses 
of last generation's orthodoxy that they seem 
unaware of this generation's multifarious up- 
thrustings of the religious spirit. When I was 
younger a widely-posted advertisement as- 
sured the world that c Mazawattee Tea 
reminds you of the delicious blends of thirty 

183 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

years ago.' We do not want any of this 
Mazawatteeism in the domain of liberal reli- 
gious thought. 

The forms which these new manifestations 
may assume are varied and sometimes extra- 
ordinary. We have the exasperating pseudo- 
mysticism of the * New Thought ' organiza- 
tions ; the portentous success of Spiritual- 
ism ; the continued expansion of Christian 
Science ; the growth of Anglo-Catholicism 
within the Church of England, indicating a 
tendency to think less of dogma and to 
extract all that is possible out of the ritual 
and actions of worship and the communal 
religious experience ; the increased toler- 
ance over doctrinal matters which has 
fostered the strong movement towards union 
or re-union among the various Protestant 
Churches. Some of these manifestations may 
appear only as new growths of old ecclesi- 
asticism, others as lamentable examples of 
human silliness or credulity ; but all testify 
to the vitality of the religious spirit seeking 
expression, and to the vast amount of con- 
structive work to be done by those who 

184 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

possess the religious spirit, but are also 
capable of free and liberal thinking. 

In both these cases the difficulties of which 
I have spoken have arisen as the result of a 
reaction against an already existing wrong 
attitude. The mysticism of some modern 
philosophers is due to a reaction against the 
aridity of a world without values, against the 
complacent over-simplifications of certain 
exponents of science or of materialistic philo- 
sophy. The unconstructive attitude of some 
of the left wing among religious thinkers is 
due to their reaction against old-fashioned 
orthodoxy's pernicious habit of accepting 
myth as fact, symbol as infallible truth, ritual 
acts as possessed of magic power. 

This latter reaction, inevitable and salu- 
tary in its time, has had another influence 
upon many of the bodies standing for the free 
advance of religious thought, which will need 
to be corrected before they can bring their 
full weight to bear in construction. They 
have had to suffer so much from myth mas- 
querading as fact that they have hardly 
attempted to see whether myth, stripped of 

185 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

its disguise, may not still have a valuable role 
to play in religion ; they have become so sick 
of loose symbolic thinking that they have 
attempted to do without symbols ; they see 
so clearly the degrading effect on intellect 
and character of belief in the magical efficacy 
of ritual words or acts that they have been 
afraid of ritual. As a result, they frequently 
tend to become jejune, cold, and dry, and do 
not appeal to the common man, full-bodied 
and comparatively unreflective as he is. 
Thus, though there are exceptions, the more 
intellectual among the liberal movements in 
religion have tended to grow thin, the less 
intellectual to be merely woolly. 

The remedy is for all who are interested in 
the development of religion to make a new 
start. If others adopt points of view that to 
us seem old-fashioned, silly, or wrong, do not 
let us pay them the compliment of reacting 
against them ; to do this means that we 
recognize common premisses, a common 
basis of thought, with them. Do not let us 
concern ourselves with outworn disputes ; 
error dies hard, but, once new truth shows, 

1 86 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

it is more profitable to follow the truth and 
build according to its lights than to engage in 
the slow and less valuable task of accelerating 
error's disagreeable death-throes. The nine- 
teenth century has shown, or so many of us 
believe, that a whole spawn of monstrous 
ideas about religion verbal inspiration, 
eternal damnation, magical efficacy of prayer 
or formula or rite, miraculous intervention, 
and the like have no validity in themselves, 
and indeed are none of them (many claims 
to the contrary notwithstanding) vital to any 
true religion. For such of us, supernatural- 
ism and revealed religion are dead, because 
meaningless^ Religion, in the light of psjychoj 
logical and anthropological science, is seen 

but as a function 



of human jiature. I^[JLYHX^ 
very complicated function of human nature, 
sometimesjLoble, sometimes hateful, some^ 
times intensely valuable, sometimes a barjto 
individual or social^ progress. But it is no 
more and no less a function of human nature 
than fighting or falling in love, than law or 
literature. 

187 



WHAT DARE i THINK? 

Let, then, the dead bury their dead. The 
task for us is to rejuvenate ourselves and our 
subject by a plunge into the waters of human 
nature, to study religion not as a problem of 
theology or scholastic logic, not as something 
divine or supernatural in contrast to the 
mundane and natural, but as an organic func- 
tion, capable, like other human functions, of 
modification, training, and improvement. 

a 






human nature. It arises out of the desire to 
know for knowing's sake ; and it proves to be 
the only sure method for increasing our prac- 
tical control over the world. Scientific laws 
are no longer looked upon as something 
existing apart from us which we chance to 
discover as we discover a Rosetta Stone or a 
new Codex, but as the most convenient way 
of classifying things and the way they happen. 
.Nor is scientific knowledge absolute know- 
ledge. So-called primary qualities, like mass 
and form, turn out to be just as much 
products of our construction, of the way we 
experience phenomena, as are so-called 
secondary qualities like smells or colours, 

1 88 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

The world seems to boil down to vast num- 
bers of tiny fields of force interacting with 
each other across space ; but we are aware 
of it as consisting of things to be touched, 
seen, smelt, and heard. This is not to say 
that science is therefore fallacious ; it gives 
us the most accurate picture of phenomena 
which we can obtain, and the accuracy of 
the picture is continually increasing. But, 
though the picture doubtless corresponds in 
some perfectly orderly way with reality, it is 
not a picture of reality, but of one aspect of 
our experience of reality. Science, in fact, is 
a way of ordering our experience ; and it is, 
with its constant testing and reference back 
to the facts of experience, the only way by 
which we can progressively increase our 
knowledge and our control of the objective! 
world. 

As such, it has not only the right but the 
duty to provide the cosmic side of that intel- 
lectual scaffolding of religion which we call 
theology. It provides the background against 
which man's religious feelings and beliefs are 
to play their parts. And those feelings and 

189 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

beliefs themselves will be influenced by their 
background. Man believing himself the in- 
habitant of the Universe's central globe, 
created a few thousand years ago, brough^ 
salvation by the Son of his Creator, lookingi 
forward to a not- too-distant end of this terres- 
trial home, cannot well have the same reli- 
gion as man knowing himself descended by 
slow evolution from the brutes, inhabitant of 
an insignificant appendage of one out of many 
million stars, with hundreds of thousands of 
years behind him, and tens or hundreds of 
millions before him. 

But our chief concern is with the human- 
istic approach to religion the consideration 
of religion as a function of the human organ- 
ism, a natural product of human nature ; 
and it is to this that we must return. There 
are many people who, though they claim to 
freethinking and independent judgment in 
religious matters, will not accept such an idea 
as possible, and many others who will say 
that they cannot see how religion can be 
defined in terms of human function. To 
them religion inevitably connotes the wor- 

190 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

ship of an independent and divine Being ; 
and the main emphasis in their thought is the 
relation of religion to the God instead of its 
relation to the man who practises it. They 
too are victims of the attitude of which I have 
already spoken caught in the theological 
ideas of past ages, they have not yet suc- 
ceeded in piercing beyond the products of 
religion to the religious impulse itself. They 
have accepted the orthodox idea of God at 
its face value, and have not perceived that 
God, in the current sense in which they use 

the word, is the creation of man. 

- -- 'j^"~"" 
QBut^you will ask, eliminate the idea of a 

Divine Person or Being to be worshipped, 
prayed to, or propitiated, and what remains 
of religion?" A great deal, I would answer. 
For what all sorts and kinds of religion have 
in common is, first, ^reaction of the human 
sgirrtjo the facts of human destiny and tfre 
forces by which it , is^Jnfluenced ; and, 
secondly, a reaction m to which thejre enleis, a 
^ This may seem so 



vague as to be no definition at all ; yet reli- 
gion is protean^and, like life, eludes precise 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

or detailed definition. Life can scarcely be 
defined more specifically than as a capacity 
of a certain kind of matter for continued 
cyclical self-reproduction. But granted this 
general property, particular circumstances 
mould it into characteristic forms of the ut- 
most concreteness, each vitally itself, and yet 
specifically interlocked with a specific en- 
vironment and way of life, each with its own 
limitations, yet each alive and real. This 
general property of a certain kind of matter 
has permitted the development of oak-tree, 
toadstool, squirrel, and hawk, each gaining 
the matter for its self-reproduction in a 
different kind of way ; has moulded the 
salmon to the water, the deer to the plains- 
ground, the swallow to the air ; has pro- 
duced creatures as differently organized as 
lobster, fish, and octopus, all equally well 
adapted to their surroundings, and yet each 
possessing its own type of organization, 
wholly different from that of the others ; and, 
finally, has given origin to a true progress, in 
which we can discern higher and lower 
organizations, and trace the real advance 

192 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

stand for a whole system of emotions and 
ideas, either because symbol and system have 
some property in common, as with the 
symbol of the lamb for Jesus, or the encircling 
wedding ring as symbol of the bond of mar- 
riage, or because the object has played a vital 
part in sacred events, as with the cross which 
has become charged with the whole burden 
of sacrifice and divine redemption. 

Another different category of objects fre- 
quently invested with religious quality in 
early religions is that of animals. The motive 
here seems often to be mixed. Partly they 
are thought of as symbols of certain vital 
qualities, partly as formidable enemies or as 
necessities of existence, while, in addition, the 
primitive mind, as evidenced by the wide- 
spread totemic system, has for some obscure 
reason chosen to reverence an animal as 
ancestor of the enduring human clan. 

This last motive for investing an object 
with sanctity is seen in pure form in ancestor- 
worship and kindred systems. But in such 
cases it is the vague indwelling spirit of the 
clan or family which is reverenced rather 

203 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

than its concrete, individual members. The 
chief reason for ascribing religious signifi- 
cance to actual human beings seems, in the 
first instance, to have been outstanding 
achievement. Later, owing to the complex 
interweaving of motives, set forth once and 
for all by Frazer in the Golden Bough, the 
headship of tribe or state comes to be fraught 
with intense magi co-religious significance, 
often to such an extent as to make the life of 
its occupant a burden, or even to demand 
his ritual death. In these cases a true deifica- 
tion of the man has to greater or lesser extent 
taken place, and, even in such a high civiliza- 
tion as that of Imperial Rome, emperors were 
accorded divine honours. 

Another type of religious significance 
adheres to men who occupy sacred offices, 
such as the Pope, or, indeed, the humblest 
ministers of many religions ; and still another 
to those who achieve sanctity, or rather what 
is felt by the contemporary mind as sanctity, 
in their own persons mystics, anchorites, 
fakirs, ascetics, saints. 

We then come to a quite differenLgrpup_of 

204 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

phenomena which have very commonly be- 
come invested with religious feeling the bio- 
logical crises of human existence, and notably 
those universal ones of birth and death, 
puberty and marriage. There are some 
peoples to whom even death seems invested 
with little religious feeling ; important per- 
sonages are buried with pomp, but ordinary 
folk are not supposed to be immortal, and 
their corpses may be thrown out without 
ceremony. But, in general, religious feeling^ 
has strongly impregnated ..these human o^ca- 
signs. The precise nature of the religious 
sentiment involved may differ much at 
different stages of development. Anthropo- 
logists seem agreed, for instance, that much of 
the marriage ceremonial among most primi- 
tive peoples is aimed at removing the possible 
evil influences of taking a stranger into the 
family, and, in fact, is concerned more with 
fear than with joy ; but it contains a reli- 
gious motive, just as much as does a Christian 
wedding ceremony (and just as little as does 
a wedding in a registry office). 

Thoughts of the mystery of human destiny, 
205 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

the incalculability of fate, the brevity of life, 
are natural and all but inevitable at such 
times, so that, even when the magical motive 
is abolished, these occasions continue to be 
natural objects for religious feeling. It is a 
familiar enough fact that, in many parts of 
Europe, the bulk of the peasantry, while 
bothering their heads very little about reli- 
gion in general, yet insist passionately upon 
its presence on the scene at the crises of birth, 
marriage, and death. In a similar way, 
national triumphs or calamities are usually 
felt as demanding a religious celebration. 
Besides these special occasions there are 
recurrent moods and attitudes in human life 
which seem inevitably to become interwoven 
with religion. The most important of these 
is the individual's sense of dependence 
on powers other and greater than himself. 
Some writers, indeed, would make this the 
prime element in all religion^ but this 
would wrongly exclude certain kinds of 
ecstasy and mystical experience from the 
religious category. 

From this sense of dependence spring two 

206 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

desires for control over these powers, and 
for participation in them. The first finds 
expression in magic and sacrifice and con- 
ventional worship, the second in rites of com- 
munion or even identification with the god. 
Our illustration of a religious celebration 
of victory or defeat leads us to another class 
of objects for religious feeling Che aspira- 
tions of the communit^ The most familiar 
example of this is provided in early Hebrew 
history : Jehovah began his career as the god 
of a fighting tribe, and only later developed 
into the God of Righteousness. He began as 
one among many similar and rival deities, 
and only gradually assumed the character of 
One and Universal God. Under the stress of 
war even modern Europe tended to revert to 
such ideas. There was a movement in Ger- 
many to hark back to the Teutonic pantheon, 
and references were made even in high places 
to c our old German God/ And I myself 
have heard a cultivated English lady say that 
if Jesus had been alive in 1914 he would 
assuredly have enlisted on the side of the 
Allies. 

207 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

In modern nationalist States the frame of 
mind which engenders national gods tends to 
spill over into plain patriotism, which may be 
held with truly religious fervour, but has no 
organic connection with the professed reli- 
gious system of the country or the professed 
religious beliefs of its citizens} Among primi- 
tive societies it tends to be merged into more 
general religious observances concerned with 
ancestor- worship and with fertility and other 
material benefits. 

Then there are the very different bases of 
the religious life provided by concrete moral 
acts and spiritual experiences. There is an 
overpowering tendency in many minds to find 
in the giving up of what we desire and in self- 
mortification something which is inevitably 

f . 

tinged with sanctity. (And the irrational 

tendency may be rationalized to make men 
feel that working for the good of others is 
not merely moral, but holy.% 

It is equally easy for prohibitions of what 
we desire to become invested with sanctity ; 
hence arise elaborate tabu systems, and codes 
which are religious at the same time that 

208 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

they are moral. Such irrational compul- 
sions, fears, and inhibitions can easily be 
generated by the psychological mechanism 
of repression ; they are common in children, 
and may, if exaggerated, distort the whole 
personality, dn our civilized societies sex is 
the commonest fact of life round which this 
sacred ambivalence hangs in fullest force ; 
but many and various are the raw materials 
here provided for the sense of sacredness to 
ferment in. ^ 

Finally, we come to less concrete but by nQ, 
means less important fields over which reli- 
gious emotion inevitably plays the fields of 
abstract morality and truth. As is natural 
and unavoidable, the concrete is intertwined 
with the abstract, and, on the whole, pre- 
cedes it in development. Many untutored 
savages would no more break an apparently 
irrational tribal tabu than would any of my 
readers commit a cold-blooded murder or 
deliberately pick a pocket ; in both cases the 
prohibition is invested with an essentially 
religious compulsion, and to transgress would 
mean overcoming a non-rational and, indeed, 

209 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

sacred horror. But though the tabu might 
have no moral meaning in itself, though the 
man might never have attempted to think 
out why the tabu existed, or the rational 
significance of tabus in general, yet his con- 
crete refusal to break a particular tabu still 
has an abstract basis ; even if no one were 
to see him and there were no risk of detection 
it would be wrong^ he would say, to break it. 

For man, in virtue of his fundamental and 
unique biological property of possessing 
general ideas, is thereby at a bound provided 
with abstract standards. To be able to say 
c it is wrong ' assumes a distinction between 
right and wrong, and implies a standard of 
righteousness which exists in thought even 
if we never attain to it, and to us appears 
absolute. In the same automatic way are 
generated standards of truth or beauty or 
other general qualities. Such standards are 
only in appearance absolute, since they vary 
with the outlook and content of the mind 
which thinks them ; but they are abstract 
and general. 

For our purpose, what is important is the 

210 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 



fact that these abstract and super-personal 
standards, whether consciously thought about 
or no, exist for human beings ; and the 
further fact that they may readily become 
invested with religious feeling and be incor- 
porated in the idea of God. 

Very hastily and incompletely I have tried 
to set forth some of the chief objects and 
experiences which tend to become charged 
with religious feeling. From the point of 
view of theology, some of these are of more 
importance than others, since they have them- 
selves become deified, or have been incor- 
porated into the idea of God. 

Every one knows Voltaire's dictum, that 
Tian made God in his own imaged But th^ 

SS"" *""" ". ' . 1 ' ' ' ' 1 ' } 

natter is not so simple as the great ration-' 
alist believed. Gods are more various than 
men ; and many other ingredients beyond 
those taken from human nature enter into 
their composition Even when at first sight 
direct deification seems to have occurred, as 
with the ascription of divinity to the sun or to 
a river, to an ancestral hero or an existing 
ruler, it will be found that in the manufacture 

211 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

of a divinity the concrete object or person and 
its qualities have almost always been blended 
with a further ingredient the idea of in- 
fluences, some straightforward and obvious, 
others mysterious and incalculable, affecting 
human destiny and welfare. 

When religious ideas are more developed, 
other ingredients are often incorporated into 
the idea of divinity, and the mode of their 
organization becomes more elaborate. In 
addition to physical objects, any of the vari- 
ous forces and agencies of the non-human 
environment which affect human destiny 
may be organized in the god, including 
animals at the one extreme and general 
' forces ' like fertility at the other ; and, in 
addition to individual human beings, we may 
find there the abstract ideas of morality, 
virtue, beauty, and truth, and also the 
aspirations of the community. And up to a 
very late stage good-sacred and bad-sacred 
have been mingled in the natures of men's 
deities. 

We may not be able to agree precisely with 
Voltaire's views. But they embodied a pro- 

212 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

found truth. All liberal theologians would 
to-day agree that the idea of god presented by 
any particular religion is man-made, what- 
ever may be the reality behind the idea. 
And many left-wing thinkers would go 
further, and would say that for them the 
idea of god is all the god there is ; that though 
the raw materials, so to speak, of which a god 
is composed exist independently of us, yet 
the actual making of gods is a purely human 
process, precisely similar to the process by 
which, according to our modern views, man 
makes natural laws out of the raw material 
provided by physical happenings. 

But the genesis of gods is only part of a 
larger subject, the evolution of religion. 
Time and cumulative tradition enter into 
this ; and the objects and ideas invested with 
religious emotion, of which I have just given 
a hasty catalogue, appear in wholly different 
guises and relations in different stages of the 
evolutionary process. My readers must, 
therefore, bear with me while I try once 
more to compress the incompressible, and 
analyse, however briefly, some of the chief 

P 213 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

stages and directions evident in religious 
evolution. 

In religion, so long as it is alive, four 
aspects are blended. vjTliere is immediate 
emotional experience ;vjthere is ritual expres- 
sion ;^here is a connection with mpjt^Iitx ; 
and there is an intellectual scaffolding-jofideas 
and belief?,. These can never be wholly dis- 
entangled. Even in the most personal of 
mystical experiences there is a setting of 
mind and body which is itself a ritual act ; 
there is a background of consciously or un- 
consciously held beliefs which influence the 
form of the experience ; there is an experi- 
ence of rightness which overflows on to 
abstract views of morality and practical con- 
duct. Ritual, again, if it be fulfilling its true 
mission, will itself be a source of religious 
feeling ; but a ritual which is moving and 
significant to a mind imbued with one set of 
intellectual ideas will appear meaningless 
against another background of belief, and 
degraded mumbo-jumbo against yet another. 
Though the several aspects are inevitably 
inter-connected, their importance bulks very 

214 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

differently in different religious systems, and 
each is capable of relatively independent 
development. 

In the process of religious evolution we 
meet with a curious phenomenon. Progress 
in morality and ethical ideas is often quite 
independent of the orthodox religion of the 
day, and may even be independent of any 
religious feeling at all. And intellectual pro- 
gress, in clear thinking and increased know- 
ledge, has even less connection with religion. 
Yet it has been the changes in man's ethical 
and intellectual outlook which have chiefly 
determined the direction of religious evolu- 
tion. And on the whole, especially in later 
centuries, it has been those more remote 
changes in regard to intellectual outlook 
which have had the greater effect. 

At the risk of over-simplification, we can 
mark three main stages in the intellectual 
background of religion according to the pre- 
dominance of three very different systems of 
beliefs. The first is the belief in magic ; 
the second the belief in personal gods who 
control the world's affairs ; the third, the 

215 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

modern scientific belief in the uniformity of 
nature and the impersonal working of 
natural laws. 

Magic, as has often been insisted, is not of 
necessity religious in its origin or its nature. 
It is rather a forerunner of science, but 
one based on wrong premisses and faulty 
methods. But so long as man's thought re- 
mained in a low stage of development magic 
and religion were intimately, and for the 
time being inseparably, united. 

In most cases magic is based in some 
degree on man's almost incurable habit of 
what psychologists call projection the endow- 
ing of an object with some of the feelings or 
ideas which it arouses in us. It is in this way, 
it seems, that unfamiliar, portentous, or 
strange objects, such as meteorites or queer- 
shaped stones, may acquire magico-religious 
significance, just as toads, cauls, midnight, 
human bones, and other emotionally-charged 
ingredients enter into the recipes alike of 
savage, classical, and mediaeval witchcraft. 

The other necessary condition for the exist- 
ence of belief in magic is the confused intui- 
216 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

tive animism characteristic of many young 
children and most primitive tribes, which 
peoples their world with forces of will and 
caprice, malice and benevolence, akin to 
those they know in their own persons and 
other human beings. This depends largely 
on reasoning by analogy, and in part on a 
somewhat different form of projection. It is 
the first step towards personification. But it 
is of some importance to remember that, even 
without any personification, the c charging * 
of objects with emotion and supposed power, 
by means of straightforward projection, will 
and does take place in any intellectual con- 
ditions under which magic can flourish. 

The next period is the period of gods. 
Belief in gods may, and usually does, exist in 
the previous stage. But they often play a 
subordinate role in the current religion (in 
several tribes, for instance, a beneficent 
creator is recognized, but is rarely wor- 
shipped or propitiated, just because he is 
beneficent, and it is so much more important 
to propitiate the powers that might do you 
evil) ; and in any case they merely constitute 

217 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

focal points or specialization so to speak, in 
the general system of magical influence. 
Similarly, belief in magic may, and usually 
does, persist into the succeeding stage. But 
the prime intellectual emphasis has passed 
to the personal deity ; magic becomes a tool 
of the gods or demons, or else a subsidiary, 
more or less independent, system, which, as 
in astrology, may lose most of its connection 
with religion, or, as in witchcraft, may 
become associated only with the * bad- 
sacred/ 

In this stage of thought there are, of course, 
many sub-grades, and many different direc- 
tions of progress. There exist all gradations 
from the innumerable fiddling little deities 
of Roman religion to the rigid monotheism 
of Judaism or Islam ; from the monstrous 
pantheon of Egypt or Hindu India to the 
shining human gods of Greece or Scandinavia. 

Almost without exception, however, much 
of the task earlier demanded of magic is in 
this stage transferred to the worship of the 
gods. Destiny is no longer thought of as the 
product of more or less impersonal forces, 

218 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

mysterious, but in the main amenable to 
proper treatment by magic ; it is now for the 
most part under the control of these personal 
divinities (though, as we know from Greek 
mythology, a relic of the former view sur- 
vived in modified form in the belief that even 
the gods were subject to Fate). What is now 
important is to gain the favour of Deity ; and 
rituals of praise, prayer, and propitiation take 
the place of the more impersonal and mate- 
rialistic methods of pure magic. 

The more spiritually-minded will always 
react against the cruder manifestations of this 
spirit. One or other of two rather different 
results may follow. Either the idea of the 
god itself may suffer a change and a purifica- 
tion, as was the result of the protests of the 
Hebrew prophets against the crudity of ma- 
terial sacrifice and the narrowly nationalist 
view of Jehovah. Or the reaction may be, 
more fundamental, and lead men to search 
for salvation and religious fulfilment in their 
own souls and their own way of life rather 
than in the service of a deity conceived of as 
a separate overruling being. Most of the 

219 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

great mystics and many of the inspired 
moralists of religious history have been sub- 
ject to this reaction. But its two greatest 
exemplars were Jesus and the Buddha. 
Jesus said : c The Kingdom of Heaven is 
within you. 9 And Buddha went even further. 
Not only did he make salvation or, as we 
had better say to avoid misunderstanding, 
the achievement of true and religious satis- 
faction dependent upon progress along the 
Path, which was a path of inner spiritual 
achievement, but in his teaching there is no 
reference at all to an external god. 

It is noteworthy that, in either case, the 
purely spiritual and personal side of the 
teacher's message, though not lost, has been 
smothered with growths of the very kind 
against which he was protesting. Christianity 
became the greatest institutional religion 
which the world has seen, with an elaborate 
scheme of externalized salvation. And 
Buddhism in the land of its birth succumbed 
to the greater objectivity of Hindu poly- 
theism, and elsewhere survives institution- 
ally only in degraded and wholly altered 

220 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

form. The facts are significant. The intel- 
lectual framework of human thought was not 
ready for the stresses which this psycho- 
logical and personal conception of religious 
fruition inflicted upon it. While ignorance 
and fear still could make it seem possible or 
likely that the control of events in this world 
and the next lay in the hands of superhuman 
beings with their own feelings and arbitrary 
wills, humanity not unnaturally felt it unsafe 
and unwise to abandon the propitiation of 
these powers in favour of the more arduous 
cultivation of the spirit, which, it seemed, was 
to be its own reward. 

The premiss of supernatural beings en- 
dowed with consciousness and personality (or 
attributes of the same order), and with con- 
trol over the fate of the world and the destiny 
of souls, has been the fundamental premiss of 
all Western religious thought for several 
thousand years. Yet within the limitations 
imposed by this premiss much development, 
mostly progressive, has taken place. One 
major development has been primarily logical 
and intellectual. It is the trend towards 

221 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

unity and universality. If you believe in 
many gods you leave a residuum of com- 
promise and illogicality in the government 
of the world. If the postulate of divinity be 
accepted it will be very hard to avoid making 
your divinity all-powerful, and therefore 
unitary, eternal, and universal, though the 
unifying process may take centuries. 

A second has been primarily moral and 
ethical ; it is the trend towards eliminating 
the bad-sacred from the nature of God, and 
the consequent ascription to him of omni- 
science, moral perfection, and ultimate bene- 
volence. Again, if you believe that life, 
either in this world or the next, is worth 
living, and if you ascribe any moral qualities 
to God, you have initiated a process which 
can scarcely fail to culminate in the concep- 
tion of an ethically perfect god. 

And a third has been, we may say, 
primarily philosophical. It is the tendency 
to dehumanize God by denying him many 
attributes of ordinary human personality, and 
ascribing qualities which we may call super- 
personal : qualities akin to those of person- 

222 



SCIENCE, RELIGION AND HUMAN NATURE 

ality, but infinitely above it, and not to be 
properly grasped by limited creatures like 
human individuals. 

It is clear that, in the course of these 
three intertwined processes, a great many of 
the more human and engaging properties of 
the early gods of naive men will be philoso- 
phized away. 



223 



CHAPTER VII 

Science and the Future of 
Religion 

IN the last chapter, after setting forth some- 
thing of the psychological bases of religion, 
I endeavoured to trace certain of the main 
phases and influences of its evolution. 

The evolution of the higher organisms 
has often been adventurous and surprising. 
What transformations our own life-stream 
has experienced, from worm-like chordate 
to armoured vertebrate, from finny fish to 
crawling land-beast, from scaly reptile to 
hairy mammal, from tree-dwelling monkey 
to two-legged naked man ! But the trans- 
formations of human religion have been 
scarcely less extraordinary. Could a Martian 
philosopher have the opportunity of examin- 
ing the mental equipment of some cultured 
adult representatives of our modern civiliza- 
tion, we may doubt that he would be able to 

224 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

deduce humanity's religious past, any more 
than he would be likely to guess that in their 
physical past they had traversed an egg- 
laying phase or a fish-like phase. For as- 
suredly it was a strange nexus of ideas and 
emotions which created the sacred Priest- 
King, never allowed to set foot to ground ; 
or produced the corps of temple prostitutes ; 
or combined limbs and features of beasts 
and men in monstrous deities ; or demanded 
the constant immolation of human victims, 
as in Aztec Mexico. 

So we may feel sure that the religious im- 
pulse, with its manifold roots reaching into 
every corner of the human organism, is not 
likely to evolve according to any definite 
plan. Just when it seems to be growing 
tamed by logic, it bursts forth in some new 
form, intellectually exotic or emotionally un- 
restrained. So in our own time, for instance, 
we have seen the reaction against the too 
logical spirit of rationalism and the com- 
fortable course of orthodoxy, in the shape 
of the uncritical excesses of Spiritualism and 
the strange fantasies of Christian Science. 

225 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

However, if we are never likely to be able to 
prophesy the precise course of religious evolu- 
tion in detail, there is at least some appear- 
ance of a general trend in the process, leading 
religious belief upwards through a series of 
main stages. Of these main stages we have 
attempted to distinguish three, and we have 
given a brief account of the characteristics of 
the first two. 

We are now at the beginning of the third, 
the scientific, stage. After a bare three cen- 
turies of the scientific spirit we cannot expect 
our scientific view of the world to have 
attained any semblance of completeness ; to 
the science often thousand years hence it will 
doubtless seem as patchy and insufficient as 
does early polytheism in comparison with 
developed scholastic theology. But the scien- 
tific approach involves a fundamental change 
of outlook, and the influence of that change 
is already apparent in many fields. 

Its most obvious theological effect is this, 
that it renders either futile or illogical all 
straightforward personification of divinity, 
all conceptions of God which regard him 

226 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

as a separate being controlling the universe 
which he has created, all views which 
stress God's transcendence instead of his 
immanence. 

In face of the advance of scientific under- 
standing the controlling functions of God the 
Ruler, as they were confidently assumed by a 
simpler theology, have gradually dwindled 
away. With final realization of the univer- 
sality of natural law and its automatic, 
inevitable workings, such a god is reduced, 
to the position of a spectator, benevolent per- 
haps, but ineffective, of the workings of the 
cosmic machine. His only possible function 
is that he may have created the machine ; 
and, of course, if he is all-wise, he will then 
have known exactly how it was going to 
work. But for the rest his sole occupation 
throughout eternity is to enjoy the verifica- 
tion of his predictions. 

This, it appears to me, is the only logical 
outcome of the belief in a personal or super- 
personal absolute god who is external to his 
world, when it is confronted with modern 
science. Instead of ruling a kingdom he 

227 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

merely holds a watching brief of which 
he never utilizes the results. The only two 
avenues of escape from this conclusion are, 
first, that he sometimes does interfere ; and, 
secondly, that he does not know the future, 
because of human freewill. And both are 
barred, for the first is contradicted by scien- 
tific knowledge ; and, if the second be true, 
God is not absolute, and in any case is in no 
less futile a position. 

Theology is well aware of this, and as a 
result has come to lay more and more stress 
on the immanent aspect of God, and on his 
super-personal aspects, which make of his 
nature something profoundly different from 
mere human personality. If you read theo- 
logical works by liberal scholars within the 
Protestant Churches, for instance, you will 
find accounts of God which are as modernist 
ascould be desired, and have lefFbehmd 
every sEred of_thg anthropomorphism of 
earlier and cruder days. Gone is the bearded 
Jehovah, gone is Milton's conversational God 
the Father, and in their place are creative 
principles, immanent spirit, divine purpose 

228 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

informing the slow movement of evolutionary 
progress, and so forth. 

I have been accused of ignorance of these 
modern theological tendencies because I 
have continued to attack the 



morphic idea of God and all that is implicit 
in it^ But the truth of the matter is that so 
long as the outworn ideas continue to stand 
uncorrected, implicit in all that is most 
sacred and essential in the Christian creeds 
and liturgy, so long must liberal Christian 
theologians endure being told that they are 
trying the impossible game of having their 
cake and eating it. The creeds, the words of 
every book of the Bible, the very fact of 
petitionary prayer, the language of any and 
every hymnal all implicitly, or more usually 
explicitly, assert a belief in a personal God, a| 
God who can survey from the outside the 
world he has made, who controls its normal 
workings and can miraculously interfere with 
them, who listens to prayer and may grant 
its petitions, who can be pleased or wrathful, 
who can purpose and plan, who deliberately 
sent his son into this world to save sinners. 

Q 229 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

Liberal theologians tell us, quite correctly, 
that this is all an outcome of^hejprimitive 
habit of thought of earlier generations and 
of the limitations of language. This is 
myth, that is symbol ; this a valiant attempt 
to express the inexpressible, that_anjunfor- 
tunate inexactitude. 

But so long as the plain statements in Bible 
and Prayer Book stand uncorrected and un- 
annotated in their central position, so long 
will the Churches be in the awkward position 
of standing with one leg on either side of a 
nasty gulf ; or, if you prefer a time-honoured 
metaphor, of attempting to ride two horses 
at once. Its leaders will believe one thing, 
the mass of adherents something not merely 
different in being simpler, but radically 
different in nature. 

I may perhaps illustrate what I mean by 
two recent extracts from the newspapers. In 
the Times of September 13, 1930, was a long 
letter from the veteran Canon J. M^ Wilson 
(one ofthc few living men who read the Origin 
of Species on its publication and T what is 
more, felt it not as a blow to religion, but a 

230 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

vital contribution to thought) l on the Report 
of the Lambeth Conference on the Doctrine of 
God. He writes of the Report that it places 
the Greeds c quietly in their proper historical 
setting. . . . Notjoeglecting or treating as of 
no importance, but rather treating the Creeds 
as they are, as educational stages of our 
Faith, as preparatory, as symbolical, as tern- 
porary, and apgroximate. ... It recognizes 
that there is no finality yet in sight ; ... it 
greatly enlarges the limits of the Church.' 
And yet, within the last few years, we have 
had the South African heresy trial and the 
Dayton Evolution case ! 

The other was a Press message which in- 
formed us that the Archbishop of Naples had 
publicly stated that the recent Italian earth- 
quake, in which many unfortunate people 
lost their lives, was God's way of showing 
that he disapproved of the immorality of 
women's dress. How the Archbishop knew 
that the divine protest was directed against 
feminine fashions and not against the Fascist 

1 Alas, since these lines were written, Canon Wilson 
has died. 

231 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

dictatorship, for instance, or the suppression 
of free speech in Italy, is not clear ; but that 
does not concern us. What concerns us is 
that the Christian Church can include views 
of the universe as radically different as those 
of the Archbishop of Naples and Canon 
Wilson, as those of the Anglican bishops 
assembled at Lambeth and the heresy- 
hunting Fundamentalists of Tennessee ; and 
that these views of the universe, these theo- 
logies, are radically different, as different as 
those of classical polytheism and early Chris- 
tianity, as different as those of a believer in 
magic and a disciple of scientific method. 

To my mind, the dilemma has come from 
a partial but incomplete realization, on the 
part of the more liberal theologians, of the 
implications of the scientific revolution. 
They have realized its implications in the 
domain of lifeless matter and in the field of 
evolution, but not in psychology and its 
consequences for comparative religion. 

Personally, I believe that what is at fault is 
the fundamental postulate of the ordinary 
theistic view the postulate that its god, 

232 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

however different in nature from ourselves, 
is a unitary being whose existence and unity 
are independent of human minds and 
thoughts. I believe, jxi fact, that men have 
in very truth made the gods. On such a 
view, the raw materials' of 
pendently in nature ; b^ 
duct is man-made. For example, as I have 
tried to set forth in detail elsewhere, the three 
Persons of the Trinity and their co-existence 
in Unity can reasonably be interpreted as 
personifications and deifications of three 
aspects of experience. The First Person 
would then primarily embody man's reaction 
to the stern and sometimes apparently hostile 
forces of nature, those to which the world 
owes its creation, those which bring man into 
existence and remove him from it, incom- 
prehensibly, without his desiring the one or 
the other. The Second Person would be in 
the main the embodiment of the personal, 
individual elements in religion ; and the 
Third Person of the abstract qualities and 
standards perceived by the human mind 
the spirit of truth, the spirit of goodness, the 

233 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

spirit of justice and mercy, and so on. And 
the union of the three Persons in one God is in 
part the outcome of man's logical mind and 
his craving for unity, partly the intuitive 
grasp of the principle (which modern science 
has done so much to confirm) that everything 
is indeed inter-connected, all things and all 
events in truth manifestations of a single 
underlying unity. 

Obviously, such a statement of the case is 
at best incomplete. Many other elements 
have entered into the Trinitarian doctrine, 
and the characters of the three persons are 
not so sharply delineated as my crude sug- 
gestion would make them. This latter fact is 
not unnatural in view of the ascription of 
personality, or something akin to it, to all 
three. But I believe that some process of the 
sort has been at work to produce the differ- 
entiation between the three persons, and that 
when looked at in this light, the doctrine of 
the Trinity, which has seemed so irrational 
to generations of advanced thinkers, is irra- 
tional only because of the consequences of 
ascribing personality and independent exist- 

234 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

ence to God. In the fundamental intuition 
behind it, Trinitarianism is truer than many 
apparently more logical systems. It cuts the 
Gordian knot of logic which demands that 
God shall be either transcendent or immanent 
by making one aspect of him the First Per- 
son primarily transcendent, another the 
Third Person primarily immanent. Thus 
it avoids the consequences of too much in- 
sistence on divine immanence, which, if 
given their head, run straight off into pan- 
theism ; and, on the other, those of over- 
emphasis upon transcendence, which tend to 
make of God either an arbitrary and alien 
ruler or a mere watcher above and beyond 
actual things and events. Then, by insisting 
on the simultaneous humanity and divinity 
of Christ, it lays full emphasis on the true 
sanctity potential in human nature the 
essential divinity to be found in man. 
Finally, by presenting us with the three 
differentiated Persons, it does its best to 
avoid the artificial compression of the rich- 
ness of religious experience into too unitary 
and rigidly logical a form. Under such com- 

235 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

pression, either some aspects of God drop out 
in favour of others and God becomes one- 
sided, or all attributes suffer a certain vague- 
ness as the deity retreats in self-defence a little 
further from the irrational confusion, but rich 
and fertile multiplicity, of actual experience. 
However, I am not concerned to defend 
Trinitarianism as such. Rather let us take it, 
and one or two others of the most elaborate 
and successful products of the theistic stage of 
religious development, and endeavour to see, 
if we can, what limitations there are in the 
way of their continued evolution, their ad- 
justment to the changed intellectual climate 
of modern times. As other representatives 
let us choose the straightforward mono- 
theism of Islam and the polytheism of 
classical Greece. Of the limitations of rigid 
monotheism I have already said something. 
It represents the triumph of logic and the 
desire for unity over the claims of actuality 
and real multiplicity. And when logic and 
unity get to work upon the concept of an 
independent deity, they either narrow him or 
thrust him out into vagueness or remoteness. 

236 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

Greek polytheism, on the other hand, is 
the most clear-cut embodiment of divine 
variety. Here are none of the theological 
transformation scenes characteristic of Hin- 
duism, the dissolving views whereby one god 
is suddenly turned into an aspect of another. 
The only connections between the various 
deities are those of kinship and the fact that 
all are subject to the decrees of Ate Destiny. 
This Destiny is so impersonal and mysterious 
as to remain formless ; but all the other in- 
habitants of the pantheon are clear-cut 
separate beings, with human form and per- 
sonality. Each represents an aspect of human 
life, human ideals, or of the environing forces 
with which they come into contact. It was 
a more flexible system, and it provided for 
greater variety, than any monotheistic creed: 
to take one obvious example, the spirit of 
earthly love, deified by the Greeks, finds 
scant representation in the nature of the 
Mohammedan or the Christian deity. But 
it failed. It failed, so it seems, for two 
reasons. One was its logical defectiveness : 
the principle of unity was too weak. The 

237 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

other, perhaps more important, was the in- 
sufficiency of a personality of human type, 
even if idealized, to bear the weight of 
godhead. For incorporated in the idea 
of godhead are two sets of ideas which 
refuse to be contained by single personalities : 
the idea of the non-human forces of nature, 
and that of abstract and eternal standards 
and principles such as truth, morality, 
beauty. 

In so far as there is a differentiation of 
Persons within the Trinity, Christian theo- 
logy can symbolize a richer variety than any 
straightforward monotheism ; in so far as it 
includes them in a single God, it can satisfy 
man's instinct for unity and represent the 
real unity of nature better than can any 
straightforward polytheism ; and in so far as 
the essence which it ascribes to God, though 
of the same order as human personality, is 
yet far more embracing, and not fully to be 
comprehended by limited human minds, it 
can not only include more elements than any 
straightforward anthropomorphism, but also 
touch profounder mysteries, more imper- 

238 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

sonal depths. But the inherent limitations 
remain. For, when all is said, it is only the 
blending which has been more skilful ; the 
ingredients, or at least the kind of ingre- 
dients, remain the same. Like Islam, only 
to a lesser extent, it is not varied enough; 
like Greek polytheism, only to a lesser extent, 
it introduces human personality or some- 
thing akin to it throughout its construction, 
and this material proves, in the long run, not 
to be capable of supporting the other neces- 
sary ingredients of deity ; and, like Islam 
and Greek polytheism and all other theo- 
logies in the deifying stage of religion, by 
ascribing to God an independent existence it 
exposes him to an ignominious fate at the 
hands of advancing science either of being 
driven outwards into the impotence of re- 
moteness, or dispersed into the equal im- 
potence of indwelling ubiquitousness. 

This latter alternative is adopted by those 
religious philosophers who conclude that the 
universe is God. But to them, and to those 
others who identify God with the philo- 
sophical Absolute, the Unknowable behind 

239 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

phenomena, the unifying principle in reality, 
and so forth, we may legitimately reply that 
their conclusions may be of great interest for 
philosophy, but have ceased to have any but 
the remotest bearing on religion. Such a 
God could not be worshipped or prayed to, 
could not arouse the intense emotion or 
ecstasy of mystical experience, and, in fact, 
has really no kinship with the actual gods of 
actual religions. 

Where, then, does the solution lie ? It 
would seem to lie in dismantling the theistic 
edifice, which will no longer bear the weight 
of the universe as enlarged by recent science, 
and attempting to find new outlets for the 
religious spirit. God, in any but a purely 
philosophical, and one is almost tempted to 
say a Pickwickian, sense, turns out to be a 
product of the human mind. As an inde- 
pendent or unitary being, active in the affairs 
of the universe, he does not exist. 

The religious emotions of mankind, these 
many centuries, have flowed into the chan- 
nels of deity. The forms which they have 
taken have been in large measure deter- 

240 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

mined by this idea of God or gods. To 
imagine, as many people do, that religion 
will cease to exist if the idea of an indcpen^" 
dent God ceases to exist is to be lament- 
ably illogical. The religious emotions are a 
natural product of man's nature. Robbed 
of the outlet of deity, they will find other 
outlets : no longer moulded by the idea jpf 
GocL they will be moulded by other con- 
cepts, and will manifest a fresh evolution into 
newjorms^ And chief among the concepts 
which will mould this new evolution will be 
the concepts of science. For knowledge is in- 
evitably the most important raw material of 
theology. 

Can we venture on any prophecy as to the 
lines which the reconstruction will take ? I 
think we can, although with the proviso that 
all we can hope to see is the beginning of a 
development whose end may and doubtless 
will be as different from its beginning as is 
modernist Christian theology from ancient 
Egyptian polytheism. Science is yet young. 
In the coming centuries there are bound 
to be radical alterations in our ideas about 

241 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

space, time, energy, and matter ; and still 
more radical alterations in our ideas about 
mind and its place in the scientific scheme. 
The^firstj and in a way most important^ 
ingredient of any religion congruous with 
science must be a reverent agnosticism con- 
cerning ultimates, and, indeed, concerning 
many things that are not ultimates. Man is 
a limited and partial creature, a product of 
material evolution. He is a relative being, 
moulded by the struggle to survive in par- 
ticular conditions on a particular planet. 
We have no grounds for supposing that his 
construction is adapted to understand the 
ultimate nature or cause or purpose of the 
universe, and indeed every reason for sup- 
posing the contrary. Quite apart from that, 
we can be sure that there are whole realms of 
knowledge which he has not yet discovered. 
The truly religious man must be content not 
to know many things, of which those that 
most vitally concern our present quest are 
the ultimate nature and purpose of the 
universe, and the truth as to the survival of 
personality after death. 

242 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

The obverse of this state of mind is the 
refusal to mistake wish for fact, the strength 
of one's desire for a thing for proof that the 
thing exists. Most men desire immortality, 
and this is often adduced as evidence that 
man is immortal. But it is of the very 
essence of the scientific^ spirit to refuse 
admittance to desire and emotion^ in 
quest for J^po^gdge save ^pnly the 
desire of discovering more truth. 

The most important characteristic of scien- 
tific method is its constant reference back to 
experience in the search for knowledge. This 
also rules out a conception which played an 
important part in mediaeval theology the 
idea that pure deductive reason and abstract 
principles, such as that of perfection, could 
tell one anything about the nature of 
things. For Aristotle and the Schoolmen, 
the heavenly bodies had to be arranged 
on spheres and to move in circles because 
these are perfect forms, while ellipsoids 
and parabolas are not. And from purely 
abstract principles, such as the goodness of 
God and the consequent perfection of the 

243 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

universe, all sorts of elaborate deductions 
were made. 

There is, however, no reason why the 
universe should be perfect ; there is, indeed, 
no reason why it should be rational. What 
exists exists ; and acceptance is man's first 
task. c I am that I am ' is a far truer piece 
of theology than all the deductive philo- 
sophy of the scholastics. 

A further consequence of the adoption ot 
the scientific outlook mustjbe the break with 
any rigid or jjxed authorityjnjveli^ibn, and 
a willingness to accept change. It has been 
a matter of frequent comment in recent years 
that, whereas change in scicntific_ideas^ is 
generally regarded as^jgark of scientific 
'iprogrcss, change in religious ideas_j&-gener r 
ally thought__of as a mark of religious de- 
generatipn. Thejiew L.concegtions of evolu- 
tionjand relativkyjire victoriesjor^ science ; 
but when the belief in miracles is abandoned 
in favour of natural law, or the theory of 
verbal inspiration and absolute rightness of 
the Bible dropped for one of progressive 
religious development, the majority of men, 

244 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

whether religious or no, still seem to look 
upon it as a defeat for religion. This comes 
solely from the part which dogmatism and 
false theories of revelation and authority have 
played in the past history of religion. It is 
perfectly possible to be religions and yet to 
welcome change without forfeiting stability. 
Science is jilways changing ; but JLJjLjaol 
unstable, 'only progressive. If progress itself 
be looked upon as a sacred duty, progress 
becomes an element in religion, and reli- 
gious change will no longer alarm and shock 
religious minds. 

Finally, it is obvious that with the aban- 
donment of the idea of God as a single 
independent power, with a nature akin to 
personality, many current religious practices 
will become meaningless. There will be no 
room for services of intercession, for prayer in 
the ordinary sense, for fear of incomprehen- 
sible punishment, for propitiatory sacrifice, 
or for the worship that is regarded as agree- 
able to its recipient. Providence turns out to 
be wrongly named, and the Will of God 
resolves itself into a combination of the 

R 245 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

driving forces of nature with the spiritual 
pressure of abstract ideas and certain of the 
conscious and subconscious desires of man. 

What, then, remains for_future religion ? 
In the first place, a recognition of the fact 
that the jreligious spirit is a permanent ele- 
ment in human nature and a potent driving- 
force ; that if it is harnessed in ways which 
are intellectually wrong its results will even- 
tually prove to be practically wrong ; and 
that at present, for want of intellectually 
satisfactory outlets, the religious driving- 
force of a great many intelligent people is 
going to waste. 

Next, a frank recognition that many of 
the functions of earlier types of religion are 
now as well or better carried out by other 
agencies. There was a time when the Church 
provided the art, music, and poetry of the 
community, whose needs in this respect are 
now in large measure satisfied by books, pic- 
tures, concerts, wireless, and the rest ; a time 
when it provided the glamour, the rich illu- 
sion, and the escape from routine now gained 
in the theatre or the cinema ; and the intel- 

24(5 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

lectual leadership, now given by philoso- 
phers, novelists, men of science, and other 
secular writers. This is recognized by 
churchmen like Dean Inge, who in his latest 
book writes : c The more it leavens society 
the less, perhaps, will the power of the 
Church become, and the less need will be felt 
for a large Christian ministry/ 

Yet the need for some specifically religious 
system to organize_the driving-force of the 
specific religiou^emotion still remains ._Even 
if we no longer symbolize the forces that 
mould man's destiny in the form of an inde- 
pendent God, we must acknowledge that to 
reflect on them, to attempt to think of them 
in their totality, and this in a spirit of rever- 
ence, is still a need and still a duty ; arjdjp 
dosoisji truly religious activity, more than 
everjiecessarv in a democratic society. We 
must further acknowledge that to enable 
the rank and file of workaday humanity to 
achieve this some organization is necessary. 
There must be men and women who will give 
the major portion of their time to thinking 
of such things, to their explanation and ex- 

247 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

position, to the guidance of enquiring or per- 
plexed minds along the right path. 

We must accept the obvious fact that for a 
great majority of people some form of reli- 
gious service, in the sense of some organized 
communal gathering with a recognized pro- 
cedure, is the best way of ensuring that they 
shall periodically escape from the pressure of 
routine and worldly cares and have an oppor- 
tunity of seeing things sub specie aeternitatis^ or 
at least in the longest view that is possible. 

Prayer in the sense of petitions for benefits 
may be meaningless ; but prayer in the 
sense of meditation guided by religknis^ feel- 
ing, of a release of our deepest aspirations, an 
attempt to disentangle our desires and relate 
thenTto eacffbther and to the impersonal anH 
super-personal forces of the world and the 
human community we live in that is both 
psychologically reasonable and spiritually 
efficacious. And here again the performance 
of such meditation in common is to many 
people a help ; Moncure Gonway himself 
was one of the first to substitute the practice 
for conventional prayer in a religious service. 

248 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

5Vc^ 
J/Ve^jnay recognize that the sanctity of a 

buildmg, a rite, a form of words, or a symbol. 
is not inherent, nor miraculously conferred 
by_a supernatural power, hut a prnHnrt of 
our own minds. Yet this does not prevent us 
from recognizing that it exists, or preclude 
us from using this faculty of men of project- 
ing their emotions into objects, in order t^i 
concentrate religious feeling and give it a 
common focus for many individuals. 

We can no longer promise salvation in the 
conventional sense. But it is a simple fact 
that men and women can come to achieve a 
sense of harmony and peace, a conviction of 
the value of existence, a feeling that their 
relation with the world at large is no longer 
confused or meaningless, but right and signi- 
ficant ; and any religion worthy the name 
will help them towards this. In the same 
way, no one can deny the existence of the 
sense of sin (though they will observe that the 
sense of sin is often exaggerated in highly 
moral people, and atrophied in the immoral), 
nor will they deny that through spiritual 
experiences the sufferer can escape from the 

249 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

gloom and horror and isolation of this feel- 
ing. To exaggerate the sense of sin, as is done 
by certain religious bodies, is unpardonable ; 
but to attempt to get rid of it by merely 
deadening it is as bad. It is a symptom that 
something is wrong ; and, when exagger- 
ated, a symptom of a radically diseased soul. 
But religion, instead of exploiting it, can help 
to reduce it to its proper place as a warning 
signal. 

So with the sense of grace, with conver- 
sion, with mystical experience. We need not 
attach the same meanings to them as are 
attached by current theology ; but to den 
their existence as psychological facts is un- 
scientific, to deny their value as spiritual 
experience is irreligious. Like much else, 
they can be abused ; but the infusion of the 
scientific outlook into religion can guard 
against that. 

Mystical experience is an excellent example 
for our purpose. At one extreme you will 
find it asserted that such experience gives 
direct knowledge of or communion with the 
Absolute or with an external Deity ; at the 

250 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

other that it is a purely pathological pheno- 
menon. A scientifically-based religion would 
say that neither of these views is true, but 
that mystical experience is a way of com- 
bining thought and feeling, inner and outer, 
which gives satisfaction in its own right, just 
as does feeling well, or making a scientific 
discovery, or looking at a beautiful land- 
scape. The s^mfe quality enters into the 
experi^nce^of^enjoying great pnetrv or art. 
or of falling in love ; the mystical experience^ 
properly so-called, differs from this in that 
the emotional setting is preponderantly a 
religious one. But all have value in them- 
selves, all are felt as sanctifying and deepen- 
ing common existence, all help in the task 
of carrying on with the routine of every 
day. 

By proclaiming the significance of such 
psychological facts, their value, and their 
possible danger and abuses, an organized 
religion can do a great deal to enrich men's 
spiritual life. 

It would need far more space than I have 
at my command to deal fully with other 

25 1 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

aspects of religious life and their place in 
any non-theistic religion. Almost without 
exception, however, the elements and prac- 
tices of the existing world-religions could be 
utilized by a religion which, abandoning the 
interpretation in terms of God, had adopted 
the scientific outlook as basis for its theology. 
But they would, of course, have to be trans- 
posed, as it were, into a new key, translated 
into new terms in accordance with the new 
outlook. Vicarious sacrifice, atonement, self- 
denial, and asceticism, the sense of inspira- 
tion or possession, the ecstatic or even orgi- 
astic liberation from the bondage of sin, of 
self, or of convention, temporary or perma- 
nent retreat from the world, participation 
in inspiring ritual these and many other 
things have their place in life, but will 
not find their right place unless they are 
helped to it by an organized religious 
system. 

On the moral and practical side the new 
outlook will effect similar transvaluations. 
To take but one or two examples, the method 
of science will be recognized as the only 

252 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

method for translating man's wishes, how- 
ever imperfectly, into actuality ; and with 
the realization of the facts of evolution and 
heredity, and of the immensity of time ahead 
of the human race, eugenics will at once be 
seen to embody a religious ideal and a moral 
duty. Religion can continue to direct men's 
minds to aims which are not merely immedi- 
ate ; but in place of other- worldliness it will 
stress what in current terms would be called 
the realization of the Kingdom of God on 
earth. 

But before I end I must speak of one point 
in which, as it seems to me, a non-theistic 
religion would have definite advantages over 
a theistic one. Theistic religion inevitably 
culminates in some form of monotheism ; and 
the combination in the one God of the ideas 
of perfection and of unity with the attribu- 
tion of moral qualities and other attributes of 
personality has inevitably, it would seem, a 
cramping effect. There is an oppression lurk- 
ing in unity, a paralysis of life in logical perfec- 
tion. G. M. Stratton, in his interesting book, 
The Psychology of the Religious Life, has admir- 

253 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

ably expressed this weakness of monotheism. 
c The monotheist/ he writes, c is apt to over- 
prize the mere unity in his Ideal, forgetful 
that unity, if it grow too great, is tyrannous. 
. . . Indeed, more than once in history a 
divine unity and concord has been attained 
at a cost of human colour and the rich play 
of interest and feeling. . . . The Ideal is not 
merely a unity ; it is quite as much a wealth 
and a diversity ' and so on. 

I would go further. I would say that the 
theistic conception is confronted with an 
eternal dilemma, which only rare minds who 
can soar above appearances are capable of 
resolving. On one side is this danger of 
tyrannous compression ; and if you avoid 
this, you run the risk of seeing your concep- 
tion of divine personality evaporate into 
meaninglessness. If there is a single divine 
being, he must be all-powerful, all-knowing, 
all-good, with an eternal nature and an un- 
changing purpose. And if so, his nature 
becomes so different from ours that it no 
longer helps us ; God becomes merely 
inscrutable. 

254 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

This is another way of saying that the 
logical Absolute is without significance for 
human affairs. It is without significance just 
because it is absolute and perfect, while the 
life of man, on its spiritual even more than on 
its physical aspect, is always and inevitably a 
development. 

The standards which seem absolute are in 
reality only abstract ; with increase of know- 
ledge and insight their application alters, 
which is another way of saying that they 
alter. As for perfection, aesthetic and intel- 
lectual experience give us a clue. To dis- 
cover or apprehend a particular truth, which 
may even be partial and destined to later 
supersession, can give a satisfaction which is 
complete in itself ; a thousand different pic- 
tures or poems may give this complete satis- 
faction, and yet the absolute perfection of 
logic is obviously lacking in them. So there 
is a perfection in a bird or a deer or a flower, 
but it is neither a logical nor an absolute 
perfection. 

Absolute and complete perfection, like 
absolute and complete truth, is to man 

255 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

relative and incomplete creature that he is 
a purely abstract conception. But for any 
stage of a human being's development there 
are satisfactions which are perfect for that 
stage, because complete and harmonious 
relatively to his ideas and powers. Some 
such perfections are enduring, others transi- 
tory ; all can be made the basis of more 
embracing perfections at a more developed 
stage. 

But this is, in a sense, a digression. To the 
eye of science the difficulty of the theistic 
position would seem to come from its at- 
tempting to combine in the nature of one 
unitary being (besides properties derived from 
impersonal natural forces) properties derived 
from human personality and properties de- 
rived from pure logic and abstract standards. 
And the quality of absoluteness and com- 
pleteness implicit in the one contradicts the 
quality of development inherent in the 
other. 

If we no longer attempt to combine all 
these diverse properties in a single independ- 
ent Being, the difficulties largely fall to the 

256 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

ground. The concept of development then 
comes to the front as the most vital, and the 
abstract values are seen in their true light, as 
inevitable methods of our thinking, which 
provide non-personal standards for the de- 
velopment of personalities. They have the 
utmost importance for this task, as they are 
the basis of any morality which is not purely 
individual ; they are the girders and tie- 
beams which provide support and continuity 
to the mental life of the species. The indi- 
vidual inevitably seeks for sanctions and sup- 
ports outside himself, greater than himself; 
these are the most important of such sanc- 
tions and supports. But they can now be 
kept in their proper place, as truly abstract 
principles, and therefore demanding to be 
clothed in concrete reality before they be- 
come significant. 

The developed human personality is, in a 
strictly scientific sense, the highest product of 
evolution, the highest organization of which 
we have knowledge. And it is, therefore, the 
concept of development of personality which 
must occupy the centre of our religious 

257 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

scheme. Walt Whitman has expressed this 
idea in noble words : 

* All parts away for the progress of souls ; 
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments 
all that was or is apparent upon this globe or 
any globe falls into niches and corners before 
the procession of souls along the grand roads of 
the universe.' 

But the ' progress of souls/ the enrichment 
and growth of personalities that is some- 
thing we can study in the world around us 
and in the lives of great men and women as 
recorded in books. And we shall see that 
courageous experiment makes for the en- 
largement of life, though it often (as in 
Moncure Conway's own life) leads to the 
abandonment of old principles for new ; that 
mistakes are inseparable from progress ; that 
variety of experience enriches life, often in 
unexpected ways, and may tumble a man 
out of a narrow unity into a broader and 
deeper unity which transcends the bound- 
aries he was capable of seeing before his eyes 
were opened by new experience. 

It is a commonplace of Christian theology 
that failure, sin, and suffering can be trans- 

258 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

muted into things of value to life ; and this is 
one of its greatest contributions to religious 
thought. It is only when it denies efficacy 
to all other means of effecting the transmuta- 
tion save those prescribed by its theological 
scheme that it reveals its limitations. 

The development of this theme would take 
us far afield. All I wish to stress here is that 
the capacity of the human mind and soul for 
enlargement, enrichment, and development 
is virtually unlimited, but that in the nature 
';> things the immature mind has not realized 
many of the possibilities inherent in it ; and 
that experiences of the most diverse and ap- 
parently irreconcilable nature can be and 
often are reconciled and made part of a fuller 
life. Provided that goodwill and sincerity 
and what we may call by the old name of 
natural piety are there, variety of experience 
is an asset. It is, indeed, right and proper 
not to attempt too much consistency, as this 
will almost invariably be found to be based 
on logic, yes but on incomplete premisses. 

One of the obvious attractions of Greek 
polytheism, for instance, was the variety of 

259 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

human activities and aspirations which it 
could accommodate within its boundaries. 
Freed from the necessity of propitiating or 
imitating a unitary being, a modern religion 
could revert to that rich variety ; while its 
release from belief in arbitrary divine control 
would allow it to concentrate upon the task 
of vivifying and enhancing life by giving a 
sacramental quality to all these its various 
attributes and activities, instead of falsifying 
its mission and dissipating its energies in 
propitiation or magic mumbo-jumbo. 

Unity and consistency have their rightful 
place in religion as in human nature ; but 
the unity is more embracing than we per- 
ceive, the consistency a convenience rather 
than a necessity. We need a trust in the 
unifying activity of the growing mind and of 
the outer universe, deliberately encouraging 
a religion of variety, in the faith that the 
variety will be reconciled in ways often 

beyond our comprehension at the time. 
****** 

But after all the disputation is done and 
its dust has died away, there remains the 

260 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

central question : Do people want a new 
religion, or, at any rate, the only kind of 
new religion which we in this place would 
willingly see namely, one with a scientific 
basis and outlook ? Men and women are 
deserting the religions which have a God. 
Will they want to join one without a God ? 

I believe that many would. But only on 
certain conditions. One we have already 
devoted much time to discussing that its 
intellectual outlook should tally with moderfl 
scientific knowledge, and should be willing 
to change and march forward as new know- 
ledge altered the scientific outlook. 

The next is that it shall satisfy to the fullest 
possible extentjhe psychological needsoftjie 
indi vidualjnan and/v^aman . On many issues 
it must remain agnostic, and therefore must 
enjoin stoicism ; but, as Professor Gilbert 
Murray has beautifully set forth in one of 
his essays, there is no quarrel between stoi- 
cism and religious feeling, and the stoical 
attitude has an important part to play in 
any developed religion. 

Though it cannot give what to us seem 
S 261 



WHAT DARE I THINK ? 

false or dubious assurances on certain matters, 
it still has a wide field before it. It can help 
people to rid themselves of their sense of 
helplessness and isolation by showing them 
that they have a place in the enduring com- 
munity of thought and purpose, joy and 
suffering, constituted by mankind. It can 
organize the religious life, providing retreats 
and celebrations, instruction and ritual, 
which are not at the command of the un- 
organized individual. To take a simple 
example from the present day, the number 
of people who avail themselves of the open 
doors of certain London churches for a brief 
interval of peace and meditation is very large. 

It can help to kill fear, and to achieve 
freedom from the sense of sin. It can reveal 
to its adherents unexpected richnesses, possi- 
bilities of their own nature of which they 
were ignorant. It could achieve this by 
studying the psychology of mystic experience 
and the sense of communion, and embodying 
its results in appropriate liturgies and in 
courses of devotional practice. 

One of the chief motives which to-day 

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SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

bring recruits into the ranks of the Churches 
as ministers, missionaries, and church 
workers is the spirit of altruism, the desire 
to do something for others, which demands 
an outlet. And, naturally, any new organiza- 
tion could canalize that spirit in as many 
ways as do the old institutions, perhaps in 
more. 

But it will never be a real force in human 
affairs unless, in addition to providing 
spiritual refuge and solace and the oppor- 
tunity of doing miscellaneous good works, it 
makes some bold appeal to the moral sense 
and the imagination of humanity. 

As I see the matter, the facts provided by 
science, which become theology when ordered 
in relation to a religious outlook an out- 
look, that is to say, concerned with man's 
relation to the rest of the universe show us 
two broad tendencies which are in a sense 
antagonistic, though both run their course in 
the same world-stuff. One is the tendency, 
epitomized for us in the second law of 
thermo-dynamics, of lifeless systems to run 
down into stagnation, into conditions where 

263 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

none of their energy is in available form. 
The other is the tendency, as embodied in 
the facts of evolution, of living matter to 
progress to ever higher levels of achievement, 
into forms which have more internal har- 
mony, more external control, more intensity 
of mental life. And man, with his scale of 
values, is the culmination of this second 
trend. The categorical, or perhaps I had 
better say the psychological, imperatives 
within us bid us realize these values to the 
fullest extent. That is an internal guidance. 
And when we look for external guidance we 
find the advice reinforced by the facts of life's 
evolution. Our conscious values are both 
the climax and the symbol of our evolutionary 
history. To bury one's talent in a napkin is 
also to be false to the whole past of life. To 
work so that man, individually and collec- 
tively, shall progress towards greater control 
over nature, more harmonious development, 
and richer and fuller intellectual and emo- 
tional life, is to show oneself the heir of an 
upward movement that has lasted for a 
thousand million years, and may endure for 

264 



SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

still longer periods into the future. We are 
living matter ; and, though the purpose and 
fate of the universe as a whole is and may be 
for ever hidden from us, the past history of 
living matter gives us a partial clue, a direc- 
tion which we must obey if we do not wish 
to falsify the destiny of life, that whole of 
which we are the culminating part. 

Thus, whether looked at from * the human 
or from the scientific point of view, a new 
religion cannot be a religion of negation, of 
death, of asceticism, of resignation. It must 
be a religion of life. It must make its first 
and greatest aim the enrichment of life. 
From the point of view of the individual's 
inner life, its message will be that life can be 
sacramental. The apprehension of truth or 
beauty ; * suffering or sacrifice ; simple joy 
and simple health ; love, physical and 
spiritual alike ; ecstasy and discipline ; self- 
surrender and self-control the most widely- 
differing aspects of life can become tinged 
with transcendent emotion, whereby c we 
feel that we are greater than we know, 5 and 
come to experience a new value in existence. 

265 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

It can also help to give to life a purpose 
that lies beyond self. From the point of view 
of the community, the race and its advance 
must be the centre of emphasis. Who can 
doubt that the motive of work for the con- 
tinuing race and the increase of its capacities 
for achievement and enjoyment could be 
charged with religious emotion, and so made 
the main conduit for the long-range moral 
aspirations of man? 

Indeed, there is no other way in which the 
community's moral stirrings can be made to 
square with the natural theology provided by 
science, and there is no other way in which 
the present regrettable tendency to erect 
Nationalism into a religion can be defeated. 
Last year's Conway Memorial lecturer, Mr 
Laurence Housman, put this matter forcibly 
when he said : c The great practical danger 
to the forward movement of Rationalism and 
the peace and liberty of human society lies 
. . . in the still growing religion of National- 
ism, the religion which makes each individual 
State an end in itself, and to that subordinates 
truth, morality, justice, and even ordinary 

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SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

common sense. 5 I would agree, only I would 
say that it was an. obstacle not only to 
Rationalism, but to any religious progress 
whatsoever. 

And in many other positive ways our reli- 
gion can have an influence upon what philo- 
sophers would call the increased realization 
of ultimate values by man, what current reli- 
gious phraseology would call the growth of 
the Kingdom of God upon earth, what the 
plain man would call an enrichment of life. 

Let us not attempt to be too cloistered. 
We do not want our religion to be merely a 
week-end cottage for the soul, merely a 
retreat from the rest of our life. It should 
provide such a retreat, true ; but it should 
also do something much more important 
namely, provide both a perspective and a 
focus for life as a whole, and an objective for 
our activities. A religion, in fact, to be suc- 
cessful must have a practical programme, 
even if it be one of the most general kind. 
Early Christianity had the practical pro- 
gramme of preparing its members for the 
Second Coming and the Last Judgment ; 

267 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

later Christianity, in general, of preparing 
for the life to come ; missionary Christian- 
ity, like Islam, of saving souls for the glory 
of God ; Buddhism, of escaping from the 
tortures of desire into the peace which is 
above desire. 

The practical programme of any new reli- 
gion must develop gradually. But some of 
the broad outlines shape themselves in the 
mind's eye. The body of its adherents must 
pledge themselves to work against certain 
things which seem to them less ultimate and 
valuable, or hostile to their own values like 
war and narrow nationalism and obscurant- 
ism, and the supremacy of purely economic 
motives, and other-worldliness as opposed 
to this-worldliness, and laissez-faire : to work 
for certain other things which seem to them 
more ultimate and valuable, like freedom, 
tolerance of sincere experiment, the advance- 
ment of knowledge, race improvement, the 
preservation and creation of beauty, the 
removal of fear, and so on. But some 
programme it must have beyond the pro- 
vision of means of stimulating the religious 

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SCIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION 

emotions once a week (though this has its 
place and its value), and a string of moral 
platitudes. 

It will need many decades before any new 
religion is able to organize itself; but the 
time ripens, and the world's dislocation 
of thought and the strange confusion of 
ephemeral and partial creeds presage a new 
birth now as they did before the birth of 
Christianity. It is not likely that any one of 
us will see that new birth ; or, if we do, we 
shall very likely not recognize it for what it is. 
But we can to the best of our ability work 
towards it by clear thinking and a generous 
trust in the riches hidden in human nature. 

That was the method of Moncure Conway. 
The best tribute to his memory is to imitate 
him. But in so doing let us not forget that, 
though the method and the outlook remain 
the same, their adaptation and application 
must inevitably change. Perhaps the greatest 
contribution of science to religion is the reali- 
zation that truth lies in the future as much as 
in the past ; and this applies equally to moral 
truth and aesthetic truth as to intellectual 

269 



WHAT DARE I THINK? 

truth. A religion based on science and on 
human nature must be a religion of life, and 
therefore must not be afraid of the greatest 
and most precious property of life the 
property of development and progressive 
change. 



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